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J. M. DENT & SONS, Ltd. 


This book is not a philological work. Only by 
courtesy can it be said to be a study in comparative 

I am interested in poetry. I have attempted to 
examine certain forces, elements or qualities which 
were potent in the mediaeval literature of the Latin 
tongues, and are, as I believe, still potent in our own. 

The history of an art is the history of masterwork, 
not of failures, or of mediocrity. The omniscient historian 
would display the masterpieces, their causes and their 
inter-relation. The study of literature is hero-worship. 
It is a refinement, or, if you will, a perversion of that 
primitive religion. 

I have floundered somewhat ineffectually through the 
slough of philology, but I look forward to the time 
when it will be possible for the lover of poetry to study 
poetry — even the poetry of recondite times and places 
— without burdening himself with the rags of morph- 
ology, epigraphy, privatleben and the kindred delights 
of the archadogical or "scholarly" mind. I make no 
plea for superficiality. But I consider it quite as 
justifiable that a man should wish to study the poetry 
and nothing but the poetry of a certain period, as 
that he should study its antiquities, phonetics or 
palaeography and be, at the end of his labours, incap- 
able of discerning a refinement of style or a banality of 

There are a number of sciences connected with the 


study of literature. There is in literature itself the 
Art, which is not, and never will be, a science. 

Art is a fluid moving above or over the minds 
of men. 

Having violated one canon of modern prose by this 
metaphysical generality, I shall violate another. I shall 
make a florid and metaphorical comparison. 

Art or an art is not unlike a river. It is perturbed 
at times by the quality of the river bed, but is in a way 
independent of that bed. The colour of the water 
depends upon the substance of the bed and banks 
immediate and preceding. Stationary objects are re- 
flected, but the quality of motion is of the river. The 
scientist is concerned with all of these things, the 
artist with that which fluws. 

It is dawn at Jerusalem while midnight hovers above 
the Pillars of Hercules. All ages are contemporaneous. 
It is B.C., let us say, in Morocco. The Middle Ages are in 
Russia. The future stirs already in the minds of the 
few. This is especially true of literature, \Ahere the' 
real time is independent of the apparent, and where 
many dead men are our grand-children's contemporaries, 
while many of our contemporaries have been already 
gathered into Abraham's bosom, or some more fitting 

What we need is a literary scholarship, which will 
weigh Theocritus and Mr Yeats with one balance, and 
which will judge dull dead men as inexorably as dull 
writers of to-day, and will, with equity, give praise to 
beauty before referring to an almanack. 

Art is a joyous thing. Its happiness antedates even 
Whistler ; apropos of which I would in all seriousness 
plead for a greater levity, a more befitting levity, in our 
study of the arts. 

Good art never bores one. By that T mean that it 


is the business of the artist to prevent ennui ; in the 
literary art, to relieve, refresh, revive the mind of the 
reader — at reasonable intervals — virith some form of 
ecstasy, by some splendour of thought, some presentation 
of sheer beauty, some lightning turn of phrase — for 
laughter, especially the laughter of the mind, is no 
mean form of ecstasy. Good art begins with an escape— 
from dulness. 

The aim of the present work is to instruct. Its 
ambition is to instruct painlessly. 

There is no attempt at historical completeness. The 
"Grundriss von Griiber " covers somewhat the same 
period and falls short of completeness in divers ways. 
It consists of 21,000 folio pages, and is, needless to say, 
Tedescan. To this admirable work I cheerfully re- 
commend anyone who has a passion for completeness. 
For, omitting though it does, many of the facts con- 
cerning mediaeval literature, it yet contains references 
to some hundreds of other works wherein the curiosity 
of the earnest may in some measure be slaked. 

As to my fitness or unfitness to attempt this treatise : 
Putnam tells us that, in the early regulations of the 
faculty of the University of Paris, this oath is pre- 
scribed for professors : "I swear to read and to finish 
reading within the time set by the statutes, the books 
and parts of books assigned for my lectures." ^ This law 
I have, contrary to the custom of literary historians, 
complied with. My multitudinous mistakes and in- 
accuracies are at least my own. 

The book treats only of such mediseval works as 
still possess an interest other than archseological for 
the contemporary reader who is not a specialist. My 
criticism has consisted in selection rather than in 

1 This meant from four to six books for the Doctors of Law or 
Medicine. Usually one professor had one book on which to lecture. 


presentation of opinion. Certain portions of the book 
are in the strictest sense original research. Through- 
out the book all critical statements are based on a 
direct study of the texts themselves and not upon 

My thanks are due to Dr Wm. P. Shepard of 
Hamilton College, whose refined and sympathetic 
scholarship first led me to some knowledge of French, 
Italian, Spanish and Provencal, and hkewise to Padre 
Jose Maria de Elizondo, for his kindness to me when 
studying in Spain. 

Some stigma will doubtless attach to Mr Ernest 
Rhys, at whose instigation the present volume was 
undertaken. Guilty of collusion, he is in no way I 
responsible for its faults. 

Amplissimas ac manu quae transcripsit gratias. 

I would express also my thanks to Messrs Smith, 
Elder & Co. for permission to quote from J. a!; 
Symonds' translation of "The Sonnets of Michael 
Angolo Buonarroti." 

E. P. 



Praefatio ad Lectorem Electum ..... V 

The Phantom Dawn ....... i 

Il Miglior Fabbro . . . . . . . -13 

Proenja 33 

Geste and Romance . . . . . .61 

La Dolce Lingua Toscana ... . . 87 


Il Maestro . . . • • • • • .105 







The Quality of Lope de Vega . . . . .191 

Camoens ......... Z26 







There is, I believe, one sense in which the word 
Romance has a definite meaning — that is, when it is 
applied to the languages derived from the Latin, and 
to the literature written in these languages. This 
literature, that part of it which was produced during 
the Middle Ages, is my subject. 

For convenience sake, and remembering that such 
points of departure are arbitrary, one might date the 
Middle Ages from that year early in the sixth century 
when Cassiodorus retired to the monastery at Vivaria, 
taking with him the culture of an age that was over 
and sealed. 

Cassiodorus had seen the end of the Roman Senate, 
of which he had been a member. He had held high 
office under Odoacer and Theodoric, and had seen the 
final victory of Belisarius. 

To his taste and to Chapter XLVIII. of the " regola" 
of St Benedict we may trace much of the inner culture 
of the Middle Ages. 

" Concerning daily manual labour : Idleness is the 
enemy of the soul; hence brethren ought at certain 
seasons to occupy themselves with manual labour, and 
again at certain hours in holy reading. Between Easter 


and the Kalends of October let them apply themselves 
to reading from the fourth to the sixth hour. From the 
Kalends of October to the beginning of Lent let them 
apply themselves to reading until the end of the third 
hour, and in these days of Lent let them receive a book 
apiece from the library and read it through." — Regola^ 
St Benedict. 

Speaking strictly, the aunals of Romance Philology 
begin with certain treaty oaths signed at Strasburg in 
A.D. 842. Romance literature begins with a Provengal 
"Alba," supposedly of the tenth century. The stanzas 
of the song have been written down in Latin, but the 
refrain remains in the tongue of the people. 

" Dawn appeareth upon the sea, 
from behind the hill. 
The watch passeth, it shineth 
clear amid the shadows." 

But before the Romance tongues, Provengal, Italian, 
Spanish, French, Portuguese, Catalan, Roumanian an| 
Romansch were anything more than ways of speaking 
Latin somewhat more corruptly than the Roman 
merchants and legionaries spoke it ; there had been in 
the written Latin itself a foreboding of the spirit which 
was, in great part, to be characteristic of the literature 
of the Middle Ages. 

This antelucanal glamour of something which is 
supposed to correspond to the Gothic in architecture 
is clearly perceptible in the works of Lucius Apuleius 
Apuleius was born 125 a.d. in the Roman colony of 
Madaura m Numidia; he was educated at Carthag* 
and m Athens, and was a lecturer by profession Hi| i 
" Metamorphoses "—popularly known as " The Golden ' 
Ass "—were written between 1 50 and 155 a.d Of his 
other works there survive theological philosophi zings; 


» On the Universe," " On the God of Socrates," '■ On 
Plato and his Teachings " ; also his " Apologia," a 
defence against the charge of practising black magic ; 
and the "Florida," a collection of passages from his 

The " Golden Ass," written around an outline found \ 
in Lucian, is a picaresque novel, the forerunner of the 
Archipreste of Hita, Lazarillo de Tormes and the tales 
of Rabelais. 

Apuleius writes in a style not unlike Rabelais, a style 
that would have offended Tacitus and disgusted Cicero 
and Quintilian. Like Dante and Villon, he uses the 
tongue of the people, for he writes in a new, strange 
Latin, at a time when the language of the Roman court 
was Greek. The Troubadours, Dante and Apuleius j 
all attempt to refine or to ornament the common speech. / 

In seeking to differentiate between Apuleius' style 
and that of classic Latinity, Adlington, who translated 
him in 1566, describes it as "such a frank and flourish- 
ing a stile as he seemed to have the muses at his will 
to feed and maintain his pen " : "so darke and high a stile, 
in so strange and absurd words and in such new invented 
phrases as he seemed rather to set it forth to shew his 
magnificincie of prose than to participate his doings to 
other." In short, he "parleys Euphues." 

I have used the term "classic" in connection with 
Latinity : in the course of this book I shall perhaps be 
tempted to use the word " romantic " ; both terms are 
snares, and one must not be confused by them. The > 
history of literary criticism is the history of a vain 
struggle to find a terminology which will define some- 
thing. The triumph of literary criticism is that certain / 
of its terms — chiefly those defined by Aristotle — still 
retain some shreds of meaning. 


"• Certain qualities and certain furnishings are germane | 
to all fine poetry; \ there is no need to call them either* 
classic or romantic. It makes little difference whether 
Ulysses dally with Calypso, or Ywain be graciously! 
entreated by Morgana. Philomel is ubiquitous. " 

The perverted asceticism which is called "classic" 
in drama like Racine's, or verse like Pope's, never 
existed in the Greek. The following fragment of 
Sophocles has all the paraphernalia of the " Romantic " 
school, and something besides. " Oidipous epi Kolonoi." 
Jebb's translation. 

" Stranger, in this land of goodly steeds, thou hast ■ 
come to earth's fairest home, eVen to our white Colonus ; ' 
where the nightingale, a constant guest, trills her clear 
note in the covert of green glades, dwelling amid the 
wine-dark ivy and the Gods' inviolate bowers, rich in 
berries and fruit, unvisited by sun, unvexed by wind of 
any storm, where the reveller Dionysus ever walks 
the ground, companion of the nymphs that nursed 

" And, fed by heavenly dew, the narcissus blooms morn 
by morn with fair clusters, crown of the great goddesses 
from of yore; and the crocus blooms with golden beam. 
Nor fiiil the sleepless founts, whence the waters of* 
Cephisus wander, but each day with stainless tide he 
moveth over the plains of the land's swelling bosom, for 
the giving of quick increase ; nor hath the Muses' quire, 
abhorred this place, nor Aphrodite of the golden rain." 

Neither are witches and magical fountains the peculiar 
hall-mark of the " romantic " : the following lines from 
Ovid are as haunted as anything in Ossian. 

" Siat vetus et multos incadua s'llva per annos. ■ ■ 

CredlUle est lilt numen inesse luco. 

Fons sacer in medio speluncaque pumice pendens, 
Et latere ex omni duke querunter aves." 


" Ancient the wood stands 

unhewn for many a season. 
It seems some presence dwells 

within the grove. 
A sacred fount is there 

o'erhung with glittering stones, ' 
And from all sides there sounds 

birds sweet complaining." 

The diflFerence ia neither of matter nor of para- 
phernalia. Seeking a distinction in the style, we are 
nearer to sanity, yet even here we might do well to 
borrow an uncorrupted terminology from architecture. 
Such terms as Doric^ Romanesque and Gothic would 
convey a definite meaning, and would, when applied to 
style, be difficult of misinterpretation. When Eng- 
land had a "romantic school" it was said to join 
" strangeness " with " beauty " ; this also admits a 

Poetry is a sort of inspired mathematics, which gives 
us equations, not for abstract figures, triangles, spheres, 
and the like, but equations for the human emotions. If 
one have a mind which inclines to magic rather than to 
science, one will prefer to speak of these equations as 
spells or incantations ; it sounds more arcane, mysterious, 
recondite. Speaking generally, the spells or equations 
of " classic " al-t invoke the beauty of the normal, and 
spells of " romantic " art are said to invoke , the beauty 
of the unusual. However, any classification of works 
of art is unsatisfactory. I fear the pigeon-hole, though 
it bring apparent convenience. 

I am inclined to doubt Mackail's opinion that this 
ornate style of the later Empire is related to the 
"Gothic" quaUty of mediaeval literature, and to consider 
ApuIeius''floridity a purely oriental quality, analogous 
to the Byzantine in architecture. This -^vould ultimately 
bring us to the question of the correspondences of 


Indian to Gothic art, and we were so the more entoiled. 
The " Golden Ass " is our objective fact. 

To find out how these metamorphoses of Apuleius 
differ from preceding Latin, we may compare them 
with the metamorphoses of Ovid. Both men write 
of wonders, and transformations, and of things 

Ovid, urbane, sceptical, a Roman of the city, writes, 
not in a florid prose, but in a polished verse, with the 
clarity of French scientific prose. 

" Conoenit esse deos et ergo esse creaemus." 

"It is convenient to have Gods, and therefore W( 
believe they exist," says the sophisticated Naso; am 
with all pretence of scientific accuracy he ushers ii 
his gods, demigods, monsters and transformations. Hi; 
mind, trained to the system of empire, demands th( 
definite. The sceptical age hungers after the definite 
after something it can pretend to believe. Th( 
marvellous thing is made plausible, the gods ar( 
humanized, their annals are written as if copied fron 
a parish register; the heroes might have beei 
acquaintances of the author's father. 

Thus : in Crete, in the reign of Minos, to take £ 
definite instance, Daedalus is constructing the firsi 
monoplane, and " the boy Icarus laughing, snatches ai 
the feathers which are fluttering in the stray breeze 
pokes soft the yellow wax with his thumb, and with 
his play hinders the wonderful work of his father." 

A few lines further on Ovid writes in witness ol 
Daedalus' skill as a mechanic, that it was he who, 
observing the backbone of a fish, invented the firsi 
saw : it might be the incident of Newton and the apple 
On the whole there is nothing that need excite oui 
mcredulity. The inventor of the saw invents at 


aeroplane. There is an accident to his son, who dis- 
regards his father's flying instructions, and a final jeer 
from an old rival, Perdix, who has simplified the 
processes of aviation by getting metamorphosed into 
a bird. It is told so simply, one hardly remembers to 
be surprised that Perdix should have become a partridge ; 
or at most one feels that the accurate P. O. Naso has 
made some slight error in quoting well-established 
authority, and that we have no strict warrant for 
assuming that this particular partridge was Daedalus' 
cousin Perdix. 

Turning to Apuleius' tale of Cupid and Psyche, we 
become conscious of a different atrnq^phere. This 
particular tale is put in the mouth of a niost suspicious 
old beldame ; it is told in a robber's cave to a maiden 
captive, snatched from the arms of an expectant 
bridegroom. We are in the era of " once upon a time " ,- 
on the sea-coast of Bohemia. The indefiniteness is 
very like that of the later writers, who speak of " the 
Duke Joshua" and "that good Knight Alexander of 
Macedon," and refer to the Talmud as if it were a man ; 
thus, " Master Talmud says." 

The mood, the play is everything ; the facts are 
nothing. Ovid, before Browning, raises the dead and 
dissects their mental processes ; he walks with the 
people of myth ; Apuleius, in real life, is confused with 
his fictitious hero. He keeps up the farce of truth-telling 
by putting his exaggerated and outrageous tales in the 
mouths of strangers, who repeat what they have heard 
from chance acquaintances. The whole book purports 
to be of the adventures of a certain young traveller. 
The " Cupid and Psyche " is the best and longest of the 
interpolated tales. Thus the old beldame begins : 

" There dwelt in a certain city a King and Queen 


who had three very beautiful daughters ; but although 
the two elder were very beautiful indeed, it was yet 
thought possible to tell about them with human praises. 
But to tell the truth, the youngest was so very especially 
and exquisitely beautiful that her beauty simply could 
not be expressed or sufficiently praised with the penury 
of mortal speech." 

From which passage it is impossible not to know 
what kind of story it is going to be. The one hope is 
that the things " which never were on sea or land " 
will be more weird and marvellous than any others you 
have ever heard of: you read, as a child who has 
listened to ghost stories goes into a dark room ; it is no 
accurate information about historical things that j 
seek, it is the thrill ; mere reality would never satisfy 

Ah, no! We have already read of a marvellous c 
in St John's "Revelation"; our taste has beco 
Christianized ; our heroine must move through wond 
ful places : thus Pater's version : 

" And lo ! a grove of mighty trees, with a fount 
water, clear as glass, in the midst ; and hard by 
water, a dwelling-place, built not by human hands, " 
by some divine cunning. One recognized, even at 
entering, the delightful hostelry of a God. Golc 
pillars sustained the roof, arched most curiously in ce 
wood and ivory. The walls were hidden un 
wrought silver : all tame and woodland creatures le 
ing forward to the visitor's gaze. Wonderful indi 
was the craftsman, divine or half divine, who by 
subtlety of his art had breathed so wild a soul into 
silver ! The very pavement was distinct with picti 
in goodly stones. In the glow of its precious metal 
house is its own daylight, having no need of the s 
Well might it seem a place fashioned for the conve 
tion of gods with men ! " 


Then come voices in the air ; voices " unclothed of 
bodily vesture " ; the harping of invisible harpers, 
singing; the musicians invisible, subject to her will; 
and, most wonderful of all, the invisible Eros, and the 
wind Zephyrus, who does her bidding. 

Later, she is cast out of her paradise for dis- 
obedience, and wanders across the earth, and down into 
the deep of hell. 

Both themes are popular in the Middle Ages. The 
probable allegory of the tale, with a reversal of sex, is 
the same as that in the tales of Twain and Ossian, 
although these are usually connected with a Diana 
myth. The invisible harpers and voices in the air may 
have suggested Ariel and his kindred sprites in " The 
Tempest," as Adlington's translation was undoubtedly 
known to Shakespeare. 

It is, however, to the style that we must look for 
our distinction between the Latin of Apuleius and the 
classic Latin. Restraint, which drives the master toward 
intensity and the tyro toward aridity, has been 
abandoned. The charm of neatness has lost its power ; 
the barbaric and the Gothic mind alike delight in 
profusion. If Europe, as has been said, ends at the 
Pyrenees, the similarity of Apuleius' style to the later 
Spanish " culturismo " offers opportunity to some literary 
theorician for investigating the Carthagenian element 
in Hterature. Enough here to point out that there was 
in Latin an " unclassical " style, from which certain 
qualities in " romance " literature may be derived. 

That the hero of Apuleius' book dies in the odour of 
sanctity would make him only the more acceptable to 
the Middle Ages. The last part of the " Golden Ass," 
which is a buge parody of the mystic rites, would not 
have offended the patrons of the feast of fools ; although 
certain more serious Christians did denounce the author 


as Anti-Christ. Still it was not from Apuleius, but 
from Ovid, that the mediaeval tale-tellers took so much 
of their ornament and inspiration; and Apuleius is 
further removed from the earlier writer of metamor- 
phoses than are Crestien de Troyes or Guillaume de 

About the time when Apuleius was writing his 
scurrilous, bejewelled prose, there was composed a 
poem of some eighty odd lines,^ which is interesting for 
several reasons. It celebrates a Greek feast, which 
had been transplanted into Italy, and recently revived 
by Hadrian ; the feast of Venus Genetrix, which survives 
as May Day. The metric is noteworthy, because in it 
are seen certain tendencies indigenous to the Italian 
peninsula, which had been long suppressed by the 
imitation of Greek scansion. The measure is trochaic 

" Cras amet qui nunquam amavit 
Quique amavit cras amet." 

" Let whoever never loved, love to-morrow, 
Let whoever has loved, love to-morrow." 

" A new spring, a spring already full of song. 
Spring is reborn throughout the world. 

In spring are loves in harmony, in spring the winged ones mate, 
And the grove unbinds her locks unto the mated rains. 
To-morrow beneath the leafage of the trees the binder of loves 

will weave green lodges out of myrtle boughs, 
To-morrow Dione from her lofty throne gives forth this high 

Let whoever never loved, love to-morrow. 
Let whoever has loved, love to-morrow. 

Then from the godly blood and the foamy drops of the ocean, 

Amid the two-footed steed and the cohorts cerulean. 

Came forth the wave-born Dione from beneath the mated rains. 

1 The " Pervigilium Veneris." I discount lines 69-74 as the 
spurious marginalia of some copyist. 


Let whoever never loved, love to-morrow, 
Let whoever has loved, love to-morrow. 

She paints the purpling year with the jewels of the flowers, 

She stroketh the flower-bosoms with the west wind's breath, 

It is she who scatters the damp of the gleaming dew, which the 

night wind leaves behind him. 
Its trembling tears gleam and are ready to fall. 
The hanging, tremulous drops restrained in their falling 
Make fairer the blushing shame of the flowers. 
Yea, that dew which the stars rain down on cloudless nights 
Will unbind thepephm, the scarf, from their dewy breasts at the dawn : 
The goddess bids the rose-maids wed at morn. 
Made from Love's kisses and from Cypris' blood. 
And out of gems, and flames, and the purple of the sun. 
That glow which hides within the saffron sheath 
Shall dare at morn unbind the single fold. 

Let whoever never loved, love to-morrow, 
Let whoever has loved, love to-morrow." 

" Divine, she bids the nymphs seek out the myrtle grove." 

Then the nymphs pray to Diana, or Delia, thus : — 

" There is one thing which we pray thee, grant us, O Virgin Diana, 

That the grove be undefiled with the slaughter of wild things. 

Yea, She bids us ask thee if thy strictness might waver. 

She wills that thou deign to come — an thou deemst it maid- 
befitting — 

Where thou mightest see the galliard chorus, for three full nights 
a-singing, mid the herbs and a-wandering through thy glades. 

Through the flowery crowns of the fields, mid the lodges of myrtle ; 

And Bacchus, and Ceres, and Phcebus will be among them ; 

And the whole night long will be watched through with constant 

" Dione reigns in the woodland. 
Give place, O Delian Maid. 

Let whoever never loved, love to-morrow. 
Let whoever has loved, love to-morrow. 


Divine, she biddeth her throne to be decked with the flowers of 

She rules and gives the commands and the graces come to her calling, 
And the flowers, yea all that the year brings unto Hybla 
And more than the vales of Hybla and the fields of Enna yield. 
Lo, there come wandering with them, the maidens of field and 

of forest. 
Such as dwell in the hiUs, and the fountains and the groves. 
And here ye may see all the herds and the flocks amid the broom 

plants ; 
She, the divine one, bideth the songful wings to break silence, 
The hoarse swan clamour drifts across the pools. 
Hark ! mid the poplar shade there, the Tyrrean maiden 
Cryeth with musical mouth, so that love rather seemeth 
The cause of her song, than that sorrow 
She gat from the sister ill-wedded. 
Yea,, hers, hers is the song, and the silence is ours ! 
Ah, when shall mine own spring come ? 
Ah, when, as a lyre long silent, shall my silence find its end ? " 

(As echo) — 

" Cras amet qui nunquam amavit 
Quique amavit cras amet." 

Mackail deftly transfers the final question, and replies 
that song did not again awake until the Proven9al viol 
sounded the dawn's approaching. 



The twelfth century, or, more exactly, that century 
whose centre is the year 1 200, has left us two perfect 
gifts : the church of San Zeno at Verona, and the 
canzoni of Arnaut Daniel ; by which I would imply 
all that is most excellent in the Italian-Romanesque 
architecture and in Proven9al minstrelsy. 

While the highest minds of the age were passing 
systematic legislation for the most orderly angels, and 
reconstructing the laws of God with a fascinating precise- 
ness, the architects, illiimined, one supposes, by some 
glimmer of the esoteric doctrine, were applying the 
Greek laws of proportion to buildings meet for the new 
religion, and the Troubadours were melting the common 
tongue and fashioning it into new harmonies depending 
not upon the alternation of quantities but upon rhyme 
and accent. 

Some temperamental sympathy may prejudice me in 
favour of this age. I lay no claim to a dispassionate 
judgment. The keenly intellectual mysticism of Richard 
of St Victor fascinates me, the Romanesque architecture, 
being the natural evolution from the classic, seems more 
admirable than the artificially classic modes q£ the 
Renaissance. In the forms of Arnaut Daniel's canzoni 
I find a corresponding excellence, seeing that they satisfy 
not only the modern ear, gluttonous of rhyme, but also 
the ear trained to Roman and Hellenic music, to which 
rhyme seemed and seems a vulgarity. 


To rate Daniel among the masters is no new thing, 
as one may learn from Dante both in verse and prose. 

The opinion has been out of fashion for some five 
hundred years ; this is chiefly, I trust in charity to the 
critics, because poets have not been able to read his 
language, and because the scholars have not known 
anything about poetry.^ Now Dante's poetry so over- 
shadows his work in prose that we are apt to forget 
that he is numbered with Aristotle and Longinus among 
the great literary critics of past time. 

Dante praises Daniel with a subtle adequacy both in 
the "De Vulgari Eloquentia" and in the "Commedia" 
itself, where he sets the laudation in the mouth of his 
greatest Italian predecessor, Guido Guinicelli of Bologna, 
" il saggio." 

The passage, " Purg." 26, runs thus : Dante having 
spoken of Guinicelli as " father of me and of others my 
betters who ever use sweet and delicate rimes of love," 
says to him : " Your lovely songs as long as modem 
use shall last, will make their very ink precious " : and 
Guido replies, pointing out a spirit before him : " This 
one whom I point out with my finger was the better 
craftsman in the mother tongue. He surpassed all 
verses of love and proses of romances : let the fools talk 
who believe that that fellow from Limoges (Giraut of 
Bornelh) excels him. To rumour rather than truth 
they turn their faces, and thus fix their opinion before 
paying attention to art or reason. So did many of our 
fathers with Guittone, with clamour on clamour, 
ascribing worth to him alone, until the truth conquered 
with most folk." 

This device of praising Daniel by the mouth of 

1 From this general condemnation I would except Dr W. P. Ker. 
I do not, however, agree with his essay, " Dante, Guido Guinicelli 
and Arnaut Daniel" (^MoJ. Lang. Rev., Jan. 1909). 


Guinicelli is comparable to that which Dante uses in the 
" Paradiso," honouring St Dominic and St Francis in the 
speech of a Franciscan and a Dominican respectively. 

In Dante's " Treatise on the Common Speech," Daniel 
is taken as the type of the writers on love (ii. 2). In 
ii. 6, his " Sols sui qui sai lo sobrafan quem sortz," is 
cited among the "illustrious canzoni," to be taken as 
patterns of " this degree of construction which we call 
the most excellent." Dante mentions him again in ii. 
13, "on un-rimed stanzas," and in ii. 10 on the setting 
of "stanzas" to "odes," writing as follows: "This 
kind of stanza is used by Arnaut Daniel in almost all his 
canzoni, and we have followed him in ours, beginning, 

' Alpoco giorno ed al grand cercio ttombra,' 

' (To little day and the great circle of shadow).' " 

It is true that Bornelh also is mentioned four times 
in this treatise ; but the first reference is merely on a 
point of philology, and in the second Bornelh is taken 
as the type of the singers of righteousness, or " direc- 
tion of the will " ; where of a surety the competition 
was not so keen ; while Daniel is taken as the type of 
the singers of love, no slight matter if we consider it 
in connection with Dante's speech, " Purg." xxiv., where 
Bonagiunta recognizes him as the author of " Donne 
ch' avete intelletto d' amore," and Dante says of his own 
work, "I am one who when love inspires me, take note, 
and I go signifying after what manner he speaks within " ; 
whereto the poet of Lucca replies, " O brother, now I 
see the knot which held back the notary (Jacopo da 
Lentino), and Guittone (d'Arezzo) and me, keeping us 
on this side of the sweet new style which I hear : I see 
well how your pens press close behind the dictator, 
which of a surety befell not to ours. And he who sets 


himself to search further has not the sense to see the 
diiFerence between the styles." 

In the " Treatise on the Common Speech," Bornelh 
is further cited (ii, 5) on the hendecasyllabic lines, and, 
ii. 6, "on construction " at the head of the list ; yet, 
even if Daniel were unmentioned in this treatise, the 
passage from the " Purgatorio," which I have quoted, 
would leave us no doubt of Dante's relative respect for 
him, while the subtlest compliment of all, is that paid 
at the end of the canto ("Purg." xxvi.), where Arnaut 
Daniel speaks, not in Italian, but in his own tongue; 
an honour paid to no one else in the " Commedia." The 
first line of this speech, 

" Tan m' abelis vostre cortes deman " 
is reminiscent perhaps of Folquet of Marseilles, 

" Tan m' abelis Pamoros pensamens," 
or Sordello's 

" Tan m^ abelis lo terminis novels." 
The whole passage reads as follows : — 

" So pleasureth me your courteous demand 
That I nor can nor would conceal it you. 
Arnaut am I, who weep and go a-singing. 
In thought I see my folly of old days, 
Yet see, rejoicing, the day which is before me. 
For which I hope ; and now do I pray you in that power's name, 
Which guideth you unto the summit of the stair, 
Be mindful in good time of this my grief" 

That Daniel did not immediately go out of fashion 
we may know from Petrarch's praise of him, as "gran 
maestro d' amor" (which we may render perhaps 
" great master of chivalric love-lore") ; " who still doth 


honour to his native land by his fair, fine-wrought 

Whether Dante and Petrarch showed a certain not 
ahogether despicable intelligence in this matter, and 
whether the modern writers on the subject are to be 
numbered, ut credo, among '■'■ ^\ stolti che quel di 
lemosi credon ch' avanzi," I leave you to judge. 

Now the sum of the charges against Daniel, whom 
everyone admits to have a finer technique than any 
other Troubadour, seems to be that he is difficult to 
read ; and a careful examination of the texts shows 
that this is not due either to obscurities of style, or 
to such as are caused by the constraints of complicated 
form, and the exigency of scarce rimes, but is due 
simply to his refusal to use the "journalese " of his day, 
and to his aversion to the obvious, familiar vocabulary. 
He is never content with a conventional phrase, or with 
a word which does not convey his exact meaning ; for 
which reason his words are often hard to translate, 
more especially as there is no complete or satisfactory 
Provengal-English, or Provengal-anything, lexicon yet 

It is true that Daniel's diction and metaphor are 
occasionally so vivid as to seem harsh in literal transla- 
tion, but so are Dante's own: as, for example, <'Purg." 
i. 42, where he speaks of Cato's " oneste piume," which 
"honest plumes " must be rendered " feathery beard," 
if one is to avoid the ridiculous. Such substitutions 
must be made in nearly all translations ; and very often 
a Romance or Latin word stands between two English 
words, or includes them: thus in the Pervigilium 
Veneris, "nemus resolvit comam" can scarcely be 
translated "the grove unbinds its hair"; yet the Latin 
phrase is more picturesque than "puts forth its foliage " ; 
as the word coma is used for hair, foliage, standing corn 


or grass, indifferently : — thus in Gaelic " run " means 
"mystery" or "the beloved," and has by this associa- 
tion a poetic meaning quite untranslatable. 

However, Daniel's own poetry is more likely to 
claim interest than a record of opinions. His canzone, 
which Dante cites among the models of most excellent 
construction, opens : 

" Sols sui qui sai lo sobra^an quern sortz 
Al cor <P amor sofren per sobramar. 
Car mos volers es tantferms et entiers 
Cane no iesduis de celleiel n't s'estors 
Cut encubrlc al prim vezer e puo'ts, 
Qu' ades ses Iteis die a lieis coehos motz. 
Pois quan la vei non sai tantPai que dire." 

" Only I know what over-anguish falls 
Upon the love worn heart through over-love. 
Because of my desire so firm and whole 
Toward her I loved on sight and since alway, 
Which turneth not aside nor wavereth. 
So, far from her I speak for her mad speech, 
Who near her, for o'er much to speak, am dumb." 

The rimes a, b, c, d, e, f, g, are repeated in the same 
order six times, with a coda, e, f, g, and the original is 
perhaps the most musical arrangement of words in 
sequence, whereof we know. Like all fine poetry it can 
be well judged only when heard spoken^ ; this is true also 
of the Sestina form invented by Arnaut Daniel, later 
introduced into Italy by Dante, and into Spain, I 
believe, by Fernando de Herrera (el Divino), a form^ 
like a thin sheet of flame folding and infolding upon 

The first four stanzas and the envoi of the Canzone, 
begun above, run as follows : 

1 Or sung to its own measure. 


I am the only one who knows the over-anguish which 
falls to my lot, to the heart of love suffering through 
over-love ; for my desire is so firm and whole, never 
turning away or twisting from her, whom I desired 
at first sight and since, so that now without her I 
say to her hot words, since when I see her I do not 
know, having so much, what to say. 


I am blind for seeing others, deaf for hearing them, 
for in her alone do I see and hear and marvel ; I am no 
light, false speaker about this, for the heart willeth her 
more than the mouth saith ; for I could not travel roads, 
vales, plains, and hills enough to find in one sole body so 
many good gifts as God wills to test and set in her. 


Spoth, have I stood at many a goodly court; but 
with her alone do I find worth beyond praising, measure, 
and sense, and other good matters : beauty, youth, 
kind deeds and gracious ways. Nobly hath Courtesy 
taught her and led her forth, so that she is broken off 
from all things displeasing. I think no thing of good 
could turn from her. 


No pleasure would be for me brief or short, from 
her whom I pray that which I hope she please to divine, 
for never through me shall she know it openly, unless the 
heart shall speak out his hiddenness : for the Rhone, from 
the water that swelleth it, hath never such turmoil as 
doth that torrent which pools itself with love in my 
heart, on seeing her. 



" I pray that my song weary you not, 
For if you wish to grace the sound and the words 
Arnaut cares little whom it please or whom ofFend." 

In the fourth stanza the comparison of the heart to 
the Rhone overflowing with the spring freshets is 
Dantescan in its vivid and accurate description of the 
emotion, and in its taking a particular river for com- 
parison; Dante does not say, "where a river pools 
itself"; but, "Dove 1' Adige stagna " (where the 
Adige pools itself). 

One can form no accurate estimate of Daniel's 
technical skill in rimes, and more especially in onomato- 
poeia — making the sound follow the sense or word — 
except from a study of the Provencal ; but his vividness 
and his delicacy may be understood, I think, from the 
passages which follow : — 

First, the canzon which Dante praises in the 
"D. V. E.,"ii. 2. 

" V aura amara 
Fall bruoilh brancutz, 

Quel doutz. espeissa ab f mills. 
Els letz 

Dels auzels ramencs 
Ten balps e mutz, 

E -non pars ; 
Per qu' eu m' esfortz 
Defar e dir 

A mains per liei 
Que m'a virat bas d'aut, 
Don tem morir 
Sils afans no m'asoma." 


This verse form, with a sound that echoes the angry 
chatter of the birds in autumn, is repeated six times 
with exact repetition of the rimes. 

" The bitter air strips clear the feathery boughs. 
Which softer winds had covered thick with leaves, 
And holdeth dumb and stuttering the birds' glad mouths 
Amid the boughs, mates and unmated all." 

Wherefore I struggle to speak and to do more often 
such things as please her who hath cast me down from 
on high, of whom I fear to die unless she ease my 


So clear was my first light in choosing her whose 
eyes my heart feareth that I praise not the secret 
delights of another, nor gifts, nor prayers. Nay, my 
prayer draws itself far away from any other, but my 
delight is to attend closely to her will, to her good 
words that never weary one ; hers who so delighteth me 
that I am all for serving her, from my feet to my hair. 


" Beware, love. 
Consider, if I be truly welcome ? " 

For if I am unwelcome, I fear to make heard words 
so mad that it were better you cut short my speech ; 
for I am a faithful lover, dear, without variance, though 
many a time you rigorously make me hide my heart, 
yet with all the snow (in the world) I shoujd have need 
of a kiss to cool my hot heart, which no other balm 



If she will but reach out her hand to me in favour, 
she who hath easily set her power upon me — she 
who is, as it were, the citadel of worth — out of the 
silent prayers which I have arrayed within me, will my 
clear thought be rendered up intact; for I would be 
dead did she not make me to suffer hope, wherefore I 
pray her that she cut short my (time of) hoping, and 
in this wise retain me gay and joyous, for the joy of 
rejoicing in anything else I count not worth an apple. 

Sweet one ! Dear one ! 

Thou who art the desire of every grace {i.e. each of 
the pure essence wishes her to be its symbol, its means 
of manifestation), for many a proud, mad deed shall I 
suffer on your account, for you are the province of all 
my madness, whereof there is clamour in many a place, 
but jests (scandal) will not make me turn from you, 
nor will possessions make me depart. Never have I 
loved anything so much and with less boasting, and 
I desire you more than doth God her of Doma [i.e. 
our Lady of Pui de Dome]. 


(Envoi to the Jongleur.) 

Now make ready the song and its accompaniment 
so as to present it to the king, who shall be its target, 
for reward (of worth) which is bhnd here, is doubled 
there, and the customs of largesse and banqueting are 
kept up. "With joy repair thou thither, for if he would 
award me his ring, never a day would I stay from 
Aragon, but I should wish to go there galloping — only 
they have begged me to remain here. 



Made is the pact that in my heart I will every even- 
ing look again upon her to whom I, Arnaut, render 
lady service, in which she hath neither sharer nor 
rival, for I am clean done with troubling my head about 
any other. 

In this song, which the greatest of poets has praised, 
even though it is stripped bare as a winter branch of 
all beauties of form and of word melody by its trans- 
position into another tongue, one can still follow the 
shadowy suggestion of mediseyal ceremonies, due to 
Daniel's choice of verbs ; and the symmetrical arrange- 
ment of stanzas/ 

In Stanza I. he speaks of the season ; in most Pro- 
ven9al poetry one finds nature in its proper place, i.e. 
as a background to the action, an interpretation of the 
mood; an equation, in other terms, or a "metaphor 
by sympathy " for the mood of the poem. In half 
Arnaut's songs, and I should think in half the Pro- 

1 The excellence of the construction of the foregoing canzo may, 
I think, be understood by anyone who will sing the given stanza 
aloud. Letz, bees, mutz, are, it is true, " shaggy " rime words ; but 
if the ear is to carry seventeen rimes at once, some of them must be 
acute sounds. Dr Ker's objection that the harmony of this song is 
not obtained by the rules of thumb which Dante prescribes for 
obtaining harmony in another language, does not seem to me valid. 

In " Purg." 26 Dante's proven9al lines which do not rime with 
other lines in Italian, contain only ten syllables. And the single 
line — 

" Aifals ris ! per qua traiz, avetz " 

with which he begins the " desacoart," usually styled " Canzone 
XXI.," should show that either 't's and 'z's had in proven9al a 
different sound from that which is usually imagined, or that Dante 
believed certain things to be fitting in the lingua maierna which were 
not laudable in lingua Toscana. 


venial canzoni, the first verse sets the stage, and 
determines the tone of the poem directly or by 

In Stanza II. he speaks of the lady. 

Stanza III. is a direct appeal to her. 

Stanza IV. is spoken as if she were to overhear it. 

Stanza V. is again a direct appeal. 

Stanza VI. is the conventional address to the 

The addresses to the Jongleur, later to be replaced 
by Tornate or Envois addressed to the song itself, form 
no part of the poem proper, and concern only the 
people of the time, for which reason, coupled with our 
ignorance of the personal circumstances to which they 
refer, they are, not only in Daniel but in the other 
Troubadours, very often unintelligible. 

The boldness of the comparison at the end of Stanza 
V. is such that no translation can diminish it. Its 
arrogance may well have delighted him who summoned 
the rulers of the third heaven to attend his song. 

~^ " Foi che il intendendo il terzo del movete." 

Dante, II Convito, il. 

The second canzoni to which Dante refers is that 
most musical '-Sols sui qui sai lo sobrafan quem 
sortz," which is given above, and four stanzas of the 

"Simfos amors dejoi donor tant larga 
Cum ieu vas lieis ff aver fin cor e franc," 

are as follows : 

Had love such largesse giving joy to me, as I, in having 
for her a fine and open heart, never, for the great good 
which I seek, would he trouble to set me hindrance 


for now have I set my love in such a high place that 
the thought (of it) exalts and abaseth me. But when 
I consider how she is the summit of worth, much 
do I love myself the more for having ever dared to 
desire her, for now do I know that my heart and my wit 
will make me to make to their whim a rich conquest. 


Therefore a long delay will not put me off, for I 
have set myself toward so rich a place, and " pooled " 
myself about it ; that with her sweet words alone she 
would hold me bountied with joy, and I would follow 
her until they carry me to the tomb, for I am never 
one that leaves gold for lead ; and since in her there 
is nothing that one could refine, so will I be true and 
obedient to her until out of her love, if it please her, 
she " invest " me with a kiss. 


A good delay brings back and frees me from a sweet 
desire whereof my body grieveth me, and in calmness 
I bear the anguish and suffering and neglect and penury, 
since, as regards beauty, the other women are " in the 
valley " ; for the noblest, whoever she may be, appears 
as if she had fallen, if she come to be compared with 
her (my Lady) : and this is true, for every good charm, 
worth, wisdom and wit reign in her in such wise that 
there is not one that is there in scant quantity, nor 
which doth not abide (in her) constantly. 


And since she is of such worth, do not think that 
my firm will can disperse itself or flow away or divide, 
for by that God who manifested himself in the dove. 


I am neither mine (i.e. sane) nor hers if I leave her. 
For the world has in it no man of whatever name so 
desirous to have great prosperity as I have to be made 
hers, and I care not a bean for the bores to whom the 
harm of love is a "fiesta." 

The second stanza is of the major importance, and 
those who are trying to trace the sources of Dante's 
style will do well to consider how much the Tuscan 
master owes to Daniel's terse vigour of suggestion. 
Three times in this stanza the Provencal makes his 
picture, neither by simile nor by metaphor, but in the 
language beyond metaphor ; by the use of the pictur- 
esque verb with an exact meaning. Firstly, " pools 
himself" — the natural picture. Secondly, after the 
comparison of gold and lead, the metal worker's shop 
gives tribute, and is present to the vision in the 
technical word " refine." Thirdly, the feudal ceremony 
and the suggestion of its pageantry are in the verb 
" invest." 

It was not in a fit of senseless enthusiasm, nor yet 
because of lost narrative poems of uncertain existence, 
that Dante praised " il miglior fabbro" but for "maestria." 

Perhaps the most beautiful of all the surviving poems 
of "the better craftsman" is the Xllth (according to 
Cannello's numbering); at least it seems to lose less 
of its glamour in translation. 

" Doutz braise critz." (5 stanzas) 

Sweet clamour, cries, and lays and songs and vows 
do I hear of the birds, who in their Latin make prayers 
each to his mate, even as we here to those loved ladies 
whom our thoughts intend ; and therefore I, who 


have set my thought upon the noblest, should make 
a chan5on of fine workmanship above all the rest, where 
there be not a false word or a rhyme strained. 


I was not tortured nor taken with fears when first 
I entered into that castle behind its barriers, there 
where dwells my lady, of whom I have great hunger 
such as never had the nephew of St "William. 
A thousand times a day I yawn and stretch [I give the 
most vigorous and perhaps brutal, though exact equiva- 
lent of two words which the euphuist would render 
' languish ' and ' yearn ' ] because of that fair who 
surpasseth all others even as true joy surpasseth ire and 
fury \rampa\. 


Well was I welcomed and my words attended, so that 
I was not wrong in choosing her, but I wished rather 
to take the fine gold than a twig, that day when I and 
my lady kissed, and she made me a shield of her fair 
dark blue mantle, so that the false tale-bearers should 
not see us ; the tale-bearers with their cobra's tongues, 
whence so many ill words are set abroad. 


May God, the Chosen, by whom were absolved the 
sins of the bhnd Longinus, wish if it please him, that 
I and my lady lie within one chamber where we shall 
make a rich covenant, whereon great joy attendeth ; 
where, with laughter and caresses, she shall disclose 
to me her fair body, with the glamour of the lamplight 
about it. [E quel remir control lums de la lampa.'] 


The flowering bough with the flowerets in bud, 
which the birds make tremble with their beaks, was 
never more fresh (than she) ; wherefore I would not 
wish to have Rome without her, nor all Jerusalem, but 
altogether, with hands joined I render me to her, for 
in loving her the king from beyond Dover would have 
honour, or he to whom are Estela and Pampeluna. 

The last line of the fourth stanza may well be used 
to diiFerentiate Arnaut Daniel from all other poets of 

" And its glowing against the lamplight." ^ 

Surely the delicacy of thought, the absolute sense of 
beauty which could beget this line may justify the 
praise even of him who sang, 

" Tu, nuvoktta, in forma piu che umana 
Foco mettesti dentro alia mia mente," 

before he sang of the paradisal rose. 

There is also in the Vlllth Canzon a clever bit of 
technique, which, because it is as beautiful as it is 
clever, is worthy of note. 

"High and low among the first come leaves, the 
boughs and sprays are new with flowers, and no 

1 There is in the « Muerte del Conde de Niebla " of Juan de 
Mena (Cordovan, died in 1456) a line strangely different, yet oddly 
akin to this line of Daniel's. Mena, in enumerating the evil omens 
which attend the Count's embarkation, does not mention the appear- 
ance of the water, but suggests it in speaking of the sullen glow in 
the armour. 

" T dar nueva lumbre las armas y hierros" 

" And the arms and irons give forth new (or strange) reflections." 


bird holds mute a mouth or throat, but cries and 

" cadahus, 
en son us " 

each one in his fashion. For the joy I have of them 
and of the season I would sing, but love assails me, 
and sets the words and song in accord. [This 
means, I think, not merely " in harmony with 
each other," but "sets them in accord with himself"; 
though it is possible that I here read into the Provengal 
more than it actually says, having in my mind 
"Purg." 24, 52. 

" lo mi son un che, quando amor mi spira, noto, ed 
a quel modo che ditta dentro, vo significando." 

" I am, within myself, one who, when love breathes 
into me, take note, and go making manifest after what 
manner he speaketh." 

The imitation of the bird note, " cadahus, en son us " 
continues through the remaining stanzas. Thus II. , 
" Er va sus, qui qu\ mw" and III., 

" Mas pel us 
Estauc clus." 

Of the eighteen extant poems of Daniel one is a 
satire too rank for the modern palate. Three begin 
with a stanza of spring; one of April; one of 
May or June, it would seem ; one of fruit time ; two 
of autumn ; one of winter. The rest are of love with- 
out preface, except the rhyme of the Uncle and the 
Nail, "L'Oncla et I'ongla," which is bad enough to 
have been his first experiment with the sestina, and is, 
unfortunately, the only one which survives. 

The IVth ode opens, 

" When the ice is gone and over and remains not on 


hill nor in hollow, and in the garden the flowers tremble 
on the ' between the tips ' where the fruit comes, 
the flowers and the songs and the clear piping and the 
quaint, sweet season bid me clap my hands with joy, 
here at the time of April's coming in." 

The Vth, 

" When I see leaf and flower and fruit appear in the 
twigs of the trees, and hear the song and clamour 
which the frogs make in the rill and the birds in the 
wood, then love putteth forth leaf and flower and fruit 
in my heart, so gently that he steals the night from me 
when other folk sleep and rest and take pleasure." 

Perhaps such stanzas may suggest by what process 
the canzo of these southern companions of Richard 
Plantagenet was in a less pliable language transmuted 
into the shorter lyrical forms by the vassals of 
Elizabeth Tudor. For such suggestions in the metric 
one must of course examine the texts themselves. 

The Xth canzo is notable for the quaint passage, 
"I have heard and had said a thousand masses for her, 
and burnt lights of wax and oil, so that God might give 
me good issue concerning her, with whom no fencing 
(skill) avails me"; and for the three lines by which 
Daniel is most commonly known : — 

" leu sui Arnaut qu'amas Vaura 
E chatz le lebre ab lo bou 
E nadi contra suberna." 

" I am Arnaut who love the wind, 
And chase the hare with the ox, 
And swim against the torrent." 

These seem to have become a by-word not only in 
Provence, but among the moderns. 

The monk of Montaldon in a satire alludes to them, 


not in contempt as is usually supposed, but complaining 
that Arnaut has written nothing important since the 
time of their composition ; and Daniel himself, in some 
later canzos, laughs at them more or less affectionately, 
but in a way which shows that they had been bruited 
about in jest and discussion. Though a copyist's error 
n writing the first line 

" Qu^amas Laura" 

gives us an early example of a pun over-familiar to 
the readers of Petrarch, the Provencal jest had its 
source in the second line, 

" And chase the hare with the ox." 

It is regrettable that so much time should have been 
wasted on a quibble, and in the rather stupid contest as 
to whether the metaphor was permissible. Dante would 
seem to rebuke the scoffers obliquely in his line, 

" leu sut Arnaut que phr e vau cantan" 

" I am Arnaut who weep and go a-singing," 

a line which is, I should think, designedly reminiscent, 
and is intended to draw attention to the more im- 
portant qualities of Daniel's art : to which qualities one 
can scarcely give too much heed, and to the praise of 
which, seeing that Dante has praised them to the full, 
it is scarcely possible to add. 

If one wish to form a relative, critical estimate of 
this poet, and to calculate how much he loses in trans- 
lation, let him consider this line, 

" Jl hr'ieu b'lsaral temps braus" 

noting how unmistakably the mere sound suggests that 
"harsh north-windish time," whereof is the song; 
and then let him consider what some of our finest 


Elizabethan lyrics would be if re-written in unmeasured 

The excellencies whereby Daniel surpasses the other 
Troubadours are not easy to demonstrate in translation. 
But I think it safe to say that he was the first to 
realise fully that the music of rhymes depends upon 
their arrangement, not on their multiplicity. And out 
of this perception he wrought that form of canzone 
wherein stanza answers to stanza not boisterously, but 
with a subtle persistent echo. 

His mastery of rhythm is not confined to the move- 
ments of these more stately forms, but extends also to 
the more jovial lyric measures, as can be seen by this 
stanza of his third canzon : — 

" Can chat lafueilla Dels ausors entrecims, 
Elfreitz s'ergtietlla Don sechal vats' el vims, 
Dels dous refrims Vet sordezir la brueilla 
Mas ieu sot prims D'atnor, qui que s'en tueilla." 

Daniel is also to be praised because, through his most 
complex and difficult forms the words run often with an 
unperturbed order, almost that of prose. 


In attempting to decide whether or not Daniel's metrical practice 
conforms to Dante's recommendations, one must consider carefully 
tvvo passages in the " D. V. E.," ii. 7, 40, where Dante speaks of 
trisyllabic or almost trisallibic words — 

" vel vicinissima trisyllabitati " ; 

and ii. 5, 26 seq., where 

" Ara auziretz, encabalita chantars " 

is considered as hendecasyllabic. 

" nam dua cmsonantes extrema non sunt de syllaba pracedente." 



The culture of Provence finds its finest expression in 
the works of Arnaut Daniel. Whatever the folk 
element in Provencal poetry may have been, it has left 
scant traces. The poetry, as a whole, is the poetry 
of a democratic aristocracy, which swept into itself, or 
drew about it, every man with wit or a voice. The 
notable exceptions are the dance songs, for there is 
nothing to prevent our acceptance of such catches as 

" Quant h gilos era for a 
bel ami 
Vene 00s a mi," 

or, " La Regine Avrillouse," for songs actually sung by 
the people at out-of-door festivities. 

"The April-like Queen," or songs of like character, 
may well have been used in connection with such frag- 
ments of the worship of Flora and Venus as survived 
in the spring merry-makings : the dance itself is clearly 
discernible in its rhythm. 

" jil entrada del tens clar — aya ! 
Per ioie renovelar — dya, 
E pir jalous irritar 
Vuol la regina demonstrar — aya, 
Qu' eP e si amorouse." 

Refrain — 

*' A la vi, a la vi jalous 
Lasson nos, lasson nos 
Baillar entre nos." 


There is in the movement no suggestion of the beauti- 
ful flowing of garments, and the harmonious sway of 
hne which Catullus had in mind when he wrote the 

" Dianae sumus in fide 
Puellae et puer'i integri." 

But we are hardly fair in comparing " La Regine 
Avrillouse " to this Latin verse, which follows the classic 
dance of worship. This quasi-Zarabondilla, or Taran- 
tella, is the successor, one supposes, of the scandalous 
Cordax of the later Empire. At the time of " La Regina 
Avrillouse," the worshippers of Diana, and the Star of 
the Sea, are moving to the still graver music of ritual, 
safe in their cloisters. 

" The Alba " is debatable ground ; the earliest known 
Alba is in Latin, with five classical names in nine lines 
of verse ; but the Proven9aI burden may have been 
taken from some purely popular song. 

The fragment beginning 

" Quart h rossinhols escria " 

may easily be popular. It runs : 

" When the nightingale cries to his mate, night and 
day, I am with my fair mistress amidst the flowers, 
until the watchman from the tower cries " Lover, arise, 
for I see the white light of the dawn, and the clear day." 

The finest Alba, that which begins 

" En un vergier sotzfueilla d'albespi," ^ 

though anonymous, may be either of the court or of 
the people. But the friend is '■'■ cortes ^l' courteous, or 

The first Troubadour honourably mentioned is of 
courtly rank: William IX., Count of Poitiers (1086- 

1 There is a translation of this poem in the " Exultations." 

PROENgA r^s 

1127). This great crusader, and most puissant prince, 
belongs rather in one of Mr Hewlett's novels than in 
a literary chronicle : his fame rests rather upon deeds 
than upon the eight graceful songs that have survived him. 

The first great finder was of diiferent rank ; the 
razo, or prose preface, says of him : 

"Bernart of Ventadorn (1148-95) was of Limousin, 
of the Castle of Ventadorn, and was one of low degree, 
son, to wit, of a serving-man who gathered brushwood 
for the heating of the oven wherein was baked the 
castle bread." 

Becoming a " fair man and skilled," and knowing 
how to make poetry, and being courteous and learned, 
he is honoured by the Viscount of Ventadorn ; makes 
songs to the Countess ; makes one or two songs too 
many to the Countess ; with the sequel of a Countess 
under Tock and key, and one more Troubadour wandering 
from court to court, and ending his days at the 
monastery of Dalon. 

Sic dixit Hugh of St Circ, as the son of the afore- 
mentioned Countess of Ventadorn, told it unto him. 
The best known of Ventadorn's songs runs as follows : 

" Quant ieu _ve2J£ lauz^tamji^^er---. 
Dejoi sas alas contral ray." 

" When I see the lark a-moving 
For joy his wings against the sun-light, 
Who forgets himself and lets himself fall 
For the sweetness which goes into his heart ; 
Ai ! what great envy cometh unto me for him whom I see so 

rejoicing ! 
It marvelleth me that my heart melts not of desiring. 

Alas ! so much did I think I knew 

Of Love, and so little do I know of it, for I cannot 

Hold myself from loving 

Her from whom I shall never have anything toward. 


She hath all my heart from me, and she hath from me all my wit 

And myself and all that is mine. 

And when she took it from me she left me naught 

Save desiring and a yearning heart. 

I had no power over myself nor have had ever, since 
it let me see in her eyes a mirror that much pleased me. 

mirror, since I mirrored myself in thee, the deep 
sighs have slain me, for I have lost myself, as Narcissus 
lost himself in the fount. 

Of ladies I despair, I will trust me to them no more, 
for, ever as I was wont to champion them, so now I 
dis-champion them, since I see that one holdeth me 
not in grace. As for them that destroy and confound 
me, I fear them all and mistrust them, for well do I 
know what sort they are. 

All this makes my lady seem a good woman, where- 
fore I upbraid her, for I do not wish what one should 
wish and I do that which one should. 

1 am fallen into ill favour, and in sooth I have done 
as the fool on the bridge (probably an allusion to the 
fable of the greedy dog, from ^sop), and I do not 
know why it happened to me, except that I climb the 
mount too far. 

Grace is lost in sooth, and I will never taste it again, 
for she who should have most of it, hath it never, and 
where shall I seek it ? 

Ah ! how cruel will it seem to whoso sees her, that 
she let this desirous wretch, who will never have peace 
without her, die, and aided him not." 

At this time likewise lived Jaufre Rudel, Prince of 
Blaia (i 140-70), whose love for the Countess of Tripoli 
has been re-sung by so many ; but the song that he 
himself made for his love afar, runs as follows : 


" Lan quand Vt iom son lone en mat 
M' es bels douz. chans d' auxels de lonh" 

" When the days are long in May 
Fair to me are the songs' of birds afar. 
And when I am parted from her 
I remember me of a love afar, 
And I go with a mind gloomy and so bowed down 
That no song nor white thorn flower 
Pleaseth me more than the winter's cold. 

Never more will I take me joy of love 
Unless it be of this love afar, 
For a nobler and fairer I know not of 
In any place either near or far. 

So true and fine is her worth, that on her account I 
would I were proclaimed captive there in the realm of 
the Saracens. 

Sooth it would seem as joy, when I should seek, for 
love of God, an hospice afar ; and if it please her, I 
would lodge near to her, though I be from afar. There 
would there be faithful speaking together, when the 
far-come lover should be so close that he might have 
his solace of fair speaking. 

Wrathful and joyous do I depart when I see this 
love afar ; for I see her not in the body, for our lands 
are set apart too far. Many's the step and the road 
between us, though for all that I am not divided from 
her ; but all shall be as it pleaseth God. 

I have true faith in God, whereby I shall see this 
love afar. 

But for one good that falleth to me thereby I have 
two griefs, for she is removed from me so far. 

Aie ! for I would be a pilgrim thither if only my 


staff and my scrip (? cloak) might be mirrored in her 
fair eyes. 

" God, who hast made all things that come and go, 
And hast fashioned me out this love afar. 
Give me power, such as I have not in my heart. 
So that in short space I shall see this love afar. 
Verily and in a place set to our need, 
Be it room or garden it will alway seem to me a palace. 

" He speaketh sooth who calls me covetous 
And desirous of this my love afar, for no other joy would delight 

me so greatly, as the enjoyment of my love afar. 
But she whom I desire is so hostile to me ! 
. Thus hath my destiny bewitched me to love and be unloved. 

" But she whom I love is so against me ! 
May the ' weird ' be utterly cursed who hath fated me to love and 
not be loved." 

There is also a less quoted song of Rudel's which 
should not escape notice. 


" When the rill frees it from the fount as is its wont, 
and when appears the flower eglantine and the nightin- 
gale upon the bough trills, and refrains and lowers his 
sweet song and phrases it, right is it that I should make 
' refrain ' for my love in a land afar." 

1 1 At this time lived also Peire d'Auvergne, of whom 
Dante speaks ("D. V. E." i. lo) as using that Langue 
d'Oc which is a more finished, sweeter language for poetry 

I ( than the Langue d'Oil ; also Guillaume of Cabestang, 
whose heart his lady ate after he was dead, not 
knowing what she did, nor that her husband had 
slain him through jealousy, and contrived the trick; 
and that sweet singer Arnaut of Marvoil, that loved 
in his whole life one lady only — so far as we know from 
the philologists. And but a little while after came 


the other two, who form with Daniel the great triad 
mentioned in " D. V. E." ii. 2. I mean Giraut of Bornelh 
andBgiJrans de^JBornu ~ ~ 

The headless trunk which Dante encounters in 
Malebolge arrests not the attention more quickly than 
do the fierce words of this chastelan of Aultaforte — 
this lover of strife for strife's sake, who sings of his 
Lady Battle, as St Francis of Poverty, or the gentler 
rimers of " those ladies whom their thoughts attend." 

Dante (" Inf " xxviii.), remaining to watch the dismal 
herd, Malatesta da Rimini, Guido of Fano, Fra Dolcino, 
Mosca, sowers of discord, says : 

" Certainly I saw, and to this hour I seem to see, a 
trunk going headless, even as went the others of that 
dismal throng, and it held the severed head by the hair, 
swinging in his hand like a lantern, which looking upon 
us, said, ' Ah me ! ' 

" Of itself it made itself a lamp, and they were two 
in one and one in two (He who governeth the universe 
knows how this can be). 

" When he was just at the foot of the bridge, it 
raised its arm with the face full towards us, to bring 
near its words, which were : Behold the pain grievous, 
thou who, breathing, goest looking upon the dead ; see 
if there be pain great as this is, and that thou may'st 
bear tidings of me, know me, Bertrans de Born ; who 
gave never comfort to the young king. I made the 
father and the son rebels between them ; Achitophel 
made not more of Absalom and David by his ill- 
wandering goads. Because I have sundered persons so 
joined (in kinship), I bear my brain parted. Lasso! 
from its beginning, which is this torse. Thus is the 
c ounterpass ob served in me." 

Who is it that, smarting under fate's bitter counter- 


pass, retains such terrible vigour of almost demoniacal 
humanity ? None other than he who called the Count 
of Brittany, father of Shakespeare's piteous young prince, 
"Rassa," and the King of England "Yea and Nay," 
and the young king, his son, " Sailor," and set strife 
between old Henry and his sons. For the death of the 
young prince Henry he has left us perhaps the noblest 
" Planh " in the Provengal.^ 

Yet it is not for this lament nor yet for his love 
songs that he is most remembered, but for the goad of 
his tongue, and for his voiced scorn of sloth, peace, 
cowardice, and the barons of Provence. Thus : 

" A Perigord fres del muralh," 

" At Perigord near to the wall. 
Aye, within a mace throw of it, 

I will come armed upon Baiart, and if I find there that fat- 
bellied Poitevin, 
He shall see how my brand cuts. 

For upon the field I will make a bran-mash of his brains, mixed 
with the ' maille ' {i.e. the little round discs of his armour)." 

Earlier in the same Sirvente he says : 

" Every day I am re-soling and sewing up the barons 
and re-melting them and warming them over, for I 
thought to get them started (loosen them up), but I 
am in sooth such a fool to bother with the business, for 
they are of worse workmanship than the iron (statue of) 
St Lunart, wherefore a man's an ass who troubles about 

Every day I contend and contest and skirmish, and 
defend and carry backward and forward the battle; 
and they destroy and burn my land, and make wreck of 
my trees, and scatter the corn through the straw, and 

There is a translation of this poem in " Exultations." 


I have no enemy, bold or coward, who doth not attack 

Much of such song is, of course, filled with politics 
and personal allusions, which to-day require explana- 
tion. The passages on the joy of war, however, enter 
the realm of the universal, and can stand unannotated. 

" Quan vey pels vergiers desplegarP 

" When I see spread through the gardens 
The standards yellow and indigo and blue. 
The cries of the horses are sweet to me, 

And the bruit the jongleurs make sounding from tent to bivouac. 
The trumpets and horns and shrill clarions. 
Wherefore I would make me a sirvente, 
Such as the Count Richard shall hear it. " 

And it follows ; with every man called by his own 
name. Another begins : 

"The Count (Raimon V., Count of Toulouse, 1 148-94) 
has commanded and moved me by Sir Arramon Luc 
d'Esparro, to make for him such a chanson as shall cut 
a thousand shields, and wherein (or whereby) shall 
be broken and shattered helms, and hauberks and 
hoquetons (mail jackets), and pourpoints (doublets, or 
the steel collars worn below the helmets)." 

Besides the political songs and the laments for Prince 
Henry Plantagenet, 

" Si tuit It dol elh flor eh marimen " 

mentioned above, and one beginning, 

" My songs have end in anguish and in dule," 

Bertrans has left a number of love songs, among which 
is " La Dompra Soisseubuda " (" The Borrowed Lady ") ; 
one of the most unique canzons of the period. 


Lady Maent of Montagnac has turned him out, and 
he for consolation seeks to make a "borrowed " or ideal 
lady ; to which end he, in this song, begs from each 
pre-eminent lady of Provence some gift, or some fair 
quality : thus, of Anhes, her hair golden as Ysolt's ; of 
Cembelins, her love-lit glance; of Aelis, her speech 
free running ; of the Viscountess of Chales, her throat 
and her two hands ; of Bels-Miralhs (Fair-Mirror), her 
gaiety, and so on. 

Bertrans finds the song small consolation, as the 
patchwork mistress does not reach the lofty excellence 
of Maent; but his verses remain to us refreshingly 
naive in their idealism. De Born is at his best, how- 
ever, when singing the one lady who ever really held 
his affections; to wit. My Lady Battle; to whose 
praise : 

" Well pleaseth me the sweet time of Easter 
That maketh the leaf and the flower come out. 
And it pleaseth me when I hear the clamour 
Of the birds' bruit about their song through the wood ; 
And it pleaseth me when I see through the meadows 
The tents and pavilions set up, and great joy have I 
When I see o'er the campana knights armed and horses arrayed. 

And it pleaseth me when the scouts set in flight the folk with 

their goods ; 
And it pleaseth me when I see coming together after them an 

host of armed men. 
And it pleaseth me to the heart when I see strong castles besieged, 
And barriers broken and riven, and I see the host on the shore all 

about shut in with ditches. 
And closed in with ' lisses ' of strong piles. 

Thus that lord pleaseth me when he is first to 
attack, fearless, on his armed charger ; and thus doth 
he embolden his folk with valiant vassalage, and then 
when stour is mingled, each wight should be yare, and 


follow him exulting ; for no man is worth a damn till 
he has taken and given many a blow. 

Battle axes and swords, a-battering coloured haum'es 
and a-hacking through shields, shall we see at entering 
melee ; and many vassals smiting together, whence 
there run free the horses of the dead and wrecked. 
And when each man of prowess shall be come into the 
fray he thinks no more of (merely) breaking heads and 
arms, for a dead man is worth more than one taken 

I tell you that I find no such savour in eating butter 
and sleeping, as when I hear cried " On them ! " and 
from both sides hear horses neighing through their 
head-guards, and hear shouted ' To aid ! To aid ! ' and 
see small and great falling into the fosses, and on the 
grass, and see the dead with lance truncheons, the 
pennants still on them, a-piercing their sides. 

Barons ! put in pawn castles, and towns and cities 
before anyone makes war on us. 

Papiols, be glad to go speedily to ' Yea and Nay,' 
and tell him there's too much peace about." 

The suggestion in the first Envoi, that war can be 
waged without risk of too great personal loss to the 
actual participants, shows that the song has purpose 
as well as purple wording. 

In "D. V. E.," Dante says: 

"I do not find, however, that any Italian has yet 
written poetry on the subject of arms " ; and in 
Provence itself the other Troubadours may be said to 
have satirized the lack of courage, rather than to have 
praised the acts of carnage. Thus Bordello, as we shall 
see anon. 

Dante's third type, Giraut of Bornelh, most popular 
of the Troubadours, cited for his songs on "Righteous- 


ness," will seem rather faint after Bertrans. The com- 
parison would be almost cruel if Giraut had not been 
so over-praised. Despite his reputation, he has left 
scarcely one of the finest songs of Provence. Venta- 
dour left us the lark song cited above : Peire Bremon 
the Song from Syria (see Personas) : mad Peire Vidal 
the Song of Breath. 

" Ab r alen tir vas me V aire 
ga' eu sen venir de Provensa 
Tot quant es de hi m' agensa 
Si que quan if aug ben retraire 
Eu m' escut en ri%en 
E' n deman per un mot cen 
Tan m' es bels quan »' aug ben dire." 

" Breathing do I draw that air to me 
Which I feel coming from Provenpa, 
All that is thence so pleasureth me 
That whenever I hear good speech of it 
I listen a-laughing and straightway 
Demand for each word an hundred more, 
So fair to me is the hearing." 

" No man hath known such sweet repair 
'Twixt Rhone's swift stream and Vensa, 
From the shut sea to Durensa, 
Nor any place with joys so rare 
As among the French folk where 
I left my heart a-laughing in her care, 
Who turns the veriest sullen unto laughter." 

" No man can pass a day in boredom who hath remem- 
brance of her, in whom joy is born and begun. He 
who would speak her praise to the full, hath no need 
of skill and lying. One might speak the best, and yet 
she were still above the speech. 

"If I have skill in speech or deed hers is the thanks 
for it, for proficiency hath she given me and the under- 
standing whereby I am a gay singer, and every pleasing 


thing that I do is because of her fair self, and all joy 
needful have I of her fair body, even when I with good 
heart desire it." 

Piere d'Auvergne has left us the noted song to the 
nightingale, which begins : 

" Rossinhol al seu repaire." 

" Nightingale, go see my Lady within her bower, and 
speak with her of my state." Bertrans of Born has 
left us the "Borrowed Lady," and in like manner many 
singers who gained less fame than Bornelh, seem to 
have excelled him one by one at all points. Bornelh 
is facile, diffuse, without distinction of style, without 
personality. He writes for whoso runs, and he is 

Coleridge says, with truth : ^ 

" Our genuine admiration of a great poet is for a con- A 
tinuous undercurrent of feeling; it is everywhere present, / 
but seldom anywhere a separate excitement." -^ 

Another test of the poetic art is the single line. In 
neither the " undercurrent " nor the single line does 
Giraut excel. 

Mr Yeats gives me to understand that there comes 
in the career of a great poet, a certain time when he 
ceases to take pleasure in riming "mountain" with 
"fountain" and "beauty" with "duty." Giraut of 
Bornelh never reached the point where he ceased to 
take pleasure in the corresponding banalities. One 
must not go too far to the other extreme in estimating 
the man : allowance is to be made for the hostility of 
our own time toward anything savouring of the didactic 
in verse; and it is to be remembered that long-windedness 
was by no means such a crime in the twelfth or thirteenth 
century as it is to-day. One must remember, also, 
that Dante mentions Bornelh four times in the "D. V. E.," 


and even though this fact be discounted by the possi- 
bility that Dante was choosing well-known songs for 
purposes of illustration, and that in the first case the 
point illustrated by one of Giraut's lines is merely 

The second illustration from Bornelh (" D. V. E." 
ii. 2) is the song begmning 

" Per solatz revetllar que s' es trop endormitz." 

" To awake solace 
Because it has been too long asleep 
And to gather and bring back 
Worth which is exhausted 
I thought to trouble myself," etc. 

II. 5. " Ara auziretz encabalitz cantors." 

" Now you will hear marvellous songs." 

II. 6. " Sij>er mm Sobre-Totz nofos." 

" Now if it were not for more ' Sobre-Totz ' (Above All), 
Who tells me to sing and be gay. 
Neither the soft season when the grass is born, 
Nor meadows, nor boughs, nor woods, nor flowers. 
Nor harsh lords, and vain loves. 
Would be able to put me in motion," etc. 

With all due reverence for his modern editors, who 
label him "Der Meister des Troubadours," Bornelh 
seems to have been a gentle, querulous person, who 
began to sing reluctantly, and continued through lack 
of sufficient initiative to stop ; laudator temporis acii, 
with a whine that might have given matter to Hudibras. 
Perhaps the most favourable impression of this " fellow 
from Limoges " is to be gained from an Alba, rather 
unlike the rest of his work, but which is universally, I 
believe, attributed to him. 

All the verses, except the last, are supposed to be 
spoken by the friend who is guarding the lovers from 


surprise, a role which would have fitted Giraut most 

" King Glorious, true light and clarity, 
God powerful. Lord if it pleaseth Thee 
To my companion be thou faithful aid. 
Him have I seen not since the night came on. 
And straightway comes the dawn. 

Fair companion, sleepest or art awakened ? 
Sleep no more, arise softly, 
For in the East I see that star increasing. 
That leadeth in the day ; well have I known it. 
And straightway comes the dawn. 

Fair companion, a-singing I call you. 

Sleep no more, for I hear that bird a-singing 

Who goes crying {queren) ^ the day through the wood. 

And I fear lest the 'jealous' assail you, 

And straightway comes the dawn. 

Fair companion, come out to the window, 
And look at the signs of the sky ; 
Know if I am a faithful messenger. 
If you do not do this it'll be to your harm, 
And straightway comes the dawn. 

' Bel Companho,' since I left you 
I have not slept nor moved from my knees ; 
But I have prayed to God, the son of St Mary, 
That he give you back to me for loyal friendship. 
And straightway comes the dawn ! 

1 Queren. The misinterpretation of this word seems to be one of 
the sacred traditions of Provenfal scholarship. The form is not from 
the Latin qmero, but from quaror, a deponent with all four participles, 
habitually used of birds singing or complaining [vide Horace, " C. S.," 
43 ; Ovid, " Am.," i. 29). Here, the bird sings at the sunrise, or, in 
sympathy with the lovers, " complains of the approaching dawn." 
Those who translate queren k jom per lo bosctage, " seeking the day 
through the wood," attribute as little intelligence to the birds of 
Limoges as they themselves possess. Is the day a peculiar berry, or 
a fat grub, that any self-respecting bird should seek it in the under- 
brush, or beneath the bark of a tree \ 


' Bel Companho,' out there by the stone porches, 

You warned me not to be sleepy. 

Since then I have watched all night through until the day. 

And now neither my song pleases you, nor does my company. 

And straightway comes the dawn ! " 

(Then the lover from within) — 

" Fair, sweet companion, I am in such rich delight 
That I wish there should come never dawn nor day ; 
For the noblest that was ever born of mother 
I hold and embrace, so that I scarcely heed 
The jealous fool or the dawn." 

One would also note Bornelh's " Flor de Lis." 

" Er 'at granjoi qi! ieu 'm remembra ramor." 

" Now have I great joy when I remember me the love 
That holdeth my heart safe in her fidelity. 

" Erst came I into a garden and (full of) mingled bird 
songs. And when I stood within that fair garden, 
there appeared unto me the fair Fleur-de-lys, and took 
my eyes and seized my heart, so that since then I have 
not had remembrance or perception of anything, except 
her on whom my thoughts are bent. 
" She is that one because of whom I sing and weep," etc. 

Of course he often makespleasantlinesaboutthe spring, 
and pleasant sounds, but so did Guillaume de Poitiers, and 
Marcabrun, and Giraudon the Red before him, and two 
hundred more of his contemporaries and followers. 

In accounting for the celebrity of this " fellow from 
Limousin," who uses many words which add nothing to 
his poems, and whose little to say is eked out long with 
melody, one must remember that the Troubadour poetry 
— was, for the most part, made to sing ; the words are 
but half the art ; and Giraut may easily have been 
skilled above all others in the devising of his airs and 


tunes; so that the very faults which estrange the 
careful reader to-day may have contributed not a little 
to the " accord " of word and music, where the subtler 
effects of an Arnaut Daniel, or an Aimeric de Bellinoi 
might not have " come over the footlights " when sung ; 
and that however little claim Giraut may have to a 
place in world-literature, his prominence in his own day 
may not have been without sound reason. 

Mention should be made of the three remaining 
Troubadours cited by Dante, " D. V. E.," ii. 6. Aimeric 
of Bellinoi, delightfully — 

" Nuls hom non pot cumplir addreicamen" 

" No man can so utterly fulfil that which he hath in his heart 
But that so soon as it is spoken out or done, it seemeth a little 

Nor doth one love with a true heart 
After he thinks he loves too securely (or completely) ; 
One so thinking decreases where another advances, 
But I never love with such semblance. 
But swear, for her whom I hold most dear in my heart 
That some one loves her more 
And that I think I love her but little." 

A^T have not come upon the rest of the stanzas 
which should, presumably, follow, I give instead one of 
his crusading songs : 

I. " Sadly being parted from my love, 

I sing with mingled joy and weeping 
For grief and tears and piteousness 

(or piety. Pieta meaning also " piety," a pun is 
most certainly to be suspected) 
Come to me from the Count my Lord 
Who hath taken the Cross to serve God, 
And I have joy because God 

Forwards him, and I wish that Christendom might 
Turn through him to rejoicing. 
And that the Lord God be pleased and praised. 


And since God through his great sweetness (doussor) 
Deputes as such a champion, he is 
Recreant, forsooth, and craven 
Who lags behind, and he is cut off from honour, 
And whoso goes is graced and honoured. 
Let the going be hope of good, of joy and of grace, and 
of valour and honour, and of deliverance from evil. 

V. Much should they be sans fear. 
Secure and good warriors, 
Those who go, for they will 
Have on their side 

Saint George, and God will be with them 
Who has absolved and commanded them, 
And he who dies without doubt (fearing, hesitation) 
Will be in heaven crowned martyr. 
Yea, that Lord who is called 
God and King and Man 
Will be his surety for it." 

The razo on Aimeric of Pegulhan (whom Dante 
cites just under him of Bellinoi) begins so dehghtfuUy 
that I must quote it even though it has no bearing on 
the art of song. 

This Pegulhan " was of Tolosa, son of a burgher, 
who was a merchant who had cloth to sell, and he 
learned canzos and sirventes, but sang very badly, and 
enamoured himself of a "burgesa" his neighbour, and this 
love taught him how to make poetry, and he made her 
many good canzos. But the husband mixed himself 
(se mesclaf) up with him and did him dishonour, and 
Aimeric avenged himself and struck him with a sword 
through the head. Wherefore it was convenient 
{convinc) for him (Aimeric) to leave Toulouse." 

The seemingly artless razo, with its apparent lack 
of cohesion, has at times the marvellous power of giving 
a great deal of information in few words. To me it 


would seem rivalled only by the Hebrew and the 
Anglo-Saxon chronicles : presumably this terseness is 
given to those who use the quill with difficulty. 

Perhaps one razo on Daude de Pradas, Canon of 
Magalona, who knew full well the nature of birds of 
prey, may be taken as a model of adequate speech: 
it summarizes his poetic career thus : 

"And he made canzoni because he had a will to 
make canzoni and not because love moved him to it ; 
and nobody thought much of him or of his songs either." 

To return to Aimeric de Pegulhan and the song 
which Dante cites : 

" Si com I'arbres que per sobrecargar" opens, 

" As the tree that by over-bearing breaks and harmeth its fruit and 
So have I harmed my fair lady and myself." 

It is scarcely remarkable through the next verses, 
and one almost wonders why Dante chose it until the 
sixth stanza. 

" But often my smiles turn to weeping 
And I like a fool have joy in my grief 
And in my death when I see your face. 
And you care not when you see me die. 
You abandon me and make me 
Like a child which a man makes stop crying 
With a ' marabotin ' (farthing). 
And then when it has begun to be happy. 

The man snatches and takes away what he has given it, and then 
it weeps and makes grief twice as great as before." 

It is easy to see how this vivid simile would have 
appealed to the Maestro, who writes, " And then as a 
sobbing, beaten child, I fell asleep" ("Purg." v. 21). 


Or, "col quale il fantoiin corre alia mamma quando ha 
paura o quando egli e afflitto," at the meeting with 
Beatrice in the Paradisal field ("Purg." xxx. 44). 

There remains of Dante's list, Folquet of Marseille, 
of whose opening line, " tan m'abelis I'amoras pensamens," 
he is perhaps reminiscent in Daniel's speech ("Purg." 


I say " perhaps," because several Proven9al songs open 
with the phrase, " Tan m'abelis." Thus Sordello, in 
a song that runs, " So pleasureth me the season newly- 
come ; So grieveth me the dearth in song and joy." 

Folquet's song runs : 

" So pleasureth me the amorous thought 
Which hath come to beset my true heart 
That no other thought can fare there. 
Nor is any (other thought) now sweet and pleasant to me. 
For I am hers when the grief of it kills me, 
And true love lighteneth my martyrdom. 
Promising me joy ; but she giveth it to me over slowly. 
And hath held me long with fair seeming. 

Well do I know that all I do is nothing at all. 

And what more can I do if Love wish to slay me ; 

For wittingly he (Love) hath given me such desire 

As will never be conquered, nor conquer Him. 

Thus am I conquered, for the sighs have slain me 

So gently, because I have not aid from her whom I desire. 

Nor do I expect it from any other, 

Nor have I power to wish for another love." 

Later in the same song, 

" But if you wish me to turn elsewhere. 
Part from you, the beauty and the sweet laughter, 
And the gay pleasure, that had sent mad my wit ; 
Since, as I ween, I must part me from you, 


Every day thou art more fair and pleasant to me, 
Wherefore I wish ill to the eyes that behold you, 
Because they can never see you to my good. 
But to my ill they see you subtly (or speedily)." 

The " Lesser Arnaut," overshadowed in his own day 
by Daniel, who was likewise " of Marvoil," of the castle 
Ribeyrac, has in our day come deservedly to his share 
of praise ; he has sung long and sweetly of the Countess 
of Beziers, to whose laud these three short verses may 
be rendered. 

" Fair is it to me when the wind ' blows down my throat,' 

(akna here is ' inspire ' in its primary sense : one sees that 
he means the ' taste ' and ' feel ' of the wind) 
In April ere May comes in, 

And all the calm night the nightingale sings, and the jay. 
Each bird in his own speech. 

Through the freshness of the morning {Jrescor del matt), 
Goeth bearing joy rejoicingly 
As he lodgeth him by his mate. 

And since every terrene thing 
Rejoiceth when the leaf is born, 
I cannot keep silent the memory 
Of a love whence I am happy. 
Through nature and usage it happeneth 
That I lean toward joy. 
There, where I did the sweet folly 
That thus comes back into my heart. 

More white than Helen is my ' fair-adorned,' 

And than a flower that is born, 

And full of courtesy she is. 

And her teeth are white with true words. 

Her heart frank, sans villeiny. 

Fresh is her hue, and her hair is golden brown. 

May God save her, who hath given her this seignory. 

For never have I seen a nobler lady." 

For the sweet simplicity of adequate speech, he, 
Arnaut of Marvoil, is to be numbered among the best 
of the courtly " makers " of the South. 


Of the figures in the " Commedia " one yet remains 
unmentioned : the Mantuan Sordello. 

The passage in the Vlth Canto of the " Purgatorio " 
runs thus : 

Virgil. "But see there a soul set alone and solitary 
looketh towards us, and will teach us the speediest 
way." We came to him. O Lombard soul . . . O 
aniraa Lombarda, how wast thou haughty and disdain- 
ful, and in the movement of thine eyes majestic and 

Nought it said to us, but let us go on, only watching, 
in the guise of a lion when he crouches. Yet did Virgil 
draw on towards him, praying that he would show us 
the best ascent, and he replied not to the demand, but 
questioned us concerning our country and our life. 

And my sweet guide began, "Mantua . . . ," and 
the shade, so self-contained, leapt towards him from the 
place where it first was, saying, "O Mantuan, I am 
Sordello, of thy land, and they embraced each other." 

Then follows that terrible invective, like unto none 
since Ezekiel cried doom on Tyre. 

" AM serva Italia, dt dolor ostelk 
'Nave senza nocchiero in gran tempesta 
Non donna di provincie, ma bordello ! " 

and the seventy lines that follow. 

Sordello's right to this lonely and high station above 
the " valley of the kings " has at times been questioned ; 
but the following sirvente justifies at least the adjective 
"disdegnosa" (1. 62). 

" Now would I mourn for Sir Blancatz with this sound over-faint, 
With a sad heart and a wounded, and I have good reason to, 
For in him had I commingled 
My Lord and my good friend. 
And every valiant good is lost in his death, 


And so mortal is the harm (to the virtues) 

That I have no suspicion that it will ever be undone, except in 
this guise, that they take his heart out, and have it eaten by 
the Barons who live un-hearted, for then would they have 
hearts worth something. 

First let eat of the heart — for he hath great need of it — 
The Emperor of Rome, if he would conquer 
The Milanese by force, for they (now) hold him conquered, 
And he lives disherited in spite of his Germans. 
And secondly, let the French king eat of it. 
Then will he recover Castile that he lost by folly. 
But Ae will never eat it if his mother does not wish him to. 
For it is easily seen, to his credit, that he never does anything 
that troubles her. 

As to the English king, since he is little courageous. 

It pleaseth me that he eat well of the heart. 

Then will he be valiant and worth something. 

And will recover the land because of which he lives starved of 

all worth ; 
Since the King of France, knowing his nothingness, took it from 

Let the Castilian king eat for two, for he holds two kingdoms, 

and isn't good enough for one. 
But if he eats, I wager he does it in secret. 
For if his mother knew of it, she would beat him with a stick. 

I would that the King of Aragon eat of the heart straightway, 

For it would make him unload from himself the shame 

That he gat this side of Marseille and Amilau,^ for in no other 

way may he get honour by anything he could say or do. 
And afterward I would that they give some (of the heart) to the 

King of Navarre ; 
For I have heard that he was worth more as count than (now) 

as king. 
And it is wrong when God exalts a man into great power 
That lack of pluck make him decline in worth. 

The Count of Toulouse hath need indeed to eat of it, 
If he remembers what (land) he was wont to hold, and what 
he holds. 

1 Amilau ? a Milam — i.e. at Milan. 


For with another heart his loss (lost lands) will not come back. 
And it does not look as if they would return, with the one he 

has in himself. 
Also the Provenfal count has need to eat of it if he remember, 
That a man disherited lives hardly, and is worth naught. 
And even if he would defend his head effectually 
He has need to eat of the heart for the great burden which he 

The barons wish me ill for that which I speak well. 
But they may know that I prize them as little as they me. 
' Bel Restaur,' if I may but find grace with you. 
Set everyone to my loss (harm) who holdeth me not as friend." 

There is a quaint simplicity also about some of the 
devotional poetry. 

Thus Guilhem d'Autpol's "Alba" to the Virgin, 
"Esperanza de totz ferms esperans," beginning, — 

" Hope of all that truly hope indeed. 
River of pleasure, fountain of true grace. 
Chamber of God, garden whence was born all good. 
Repose without end, protector of orphan children. 
Consolation of the disconsolate faithful. 
Fruit of whole joy, security of peace. 
Port without peril, gate of the saving pass, 
Joy sans sadness, flower of life without death. 
Mother of God, lady of the firmament. 
Sojourn of friends, true delight without turmoil. 
Of Paradise the light and clarity and dawn. 

Glorious one, so great is the joy that comes to Thee 

Because of that one who championeth the world and Thee, 

That man can say no more good in praising Thee 

Tho' all the world were set to praising Thee, 

For in Thee are all pleasant bounties, 

Joys, honours, healings and charities ; 

Orchard of love, for in thy precious garden 

Descended the fruit that destroyeth our death. 

Dry twig giving fruit without seed, 

Door of heaven, way of salvation. 

Of all the faithful, the light, and clarity, and dawn." 


(And so on to the Envoi) 

" God give life with joy sa^s bitterness 
In Paradise with all his company 
To all who shall speak this ' alba.' " 

The same spirit is found again, with a plea for the 
common speech, in Peire de Corbiac's " Queen of the 

" Lady, queen of the angels, 
Hope of believers, 
Since sense commandeth me 
I sing of you in the * lenga romana,' 
For no man, just nor sinner. 
Should keep from praising you. 
As his wit best befits him. 
Be it in ' roman ' or in the ' lenga latina.' 

Lady, rose without thorns. 

Fragrant above all flowers. 

Dry branch giving fruit. 

Land that giveth grain without labour. 

Star, mother of sunlight (the sun). 

In the world none is like Thee 

Neither far nor near. 

Lady, you are the eglantine 

That Moses found green 

In the midst of the burning flames. 

Lady, star of the sea. 

More luissent than all others, 

The sea and the wind assail us. 

Show us the certain way, 

For if you wish to bring us to good harbour. 

Nor ship nor pilot have fear 

Of the tempest which troubles them 

Nor of the swelling of the sea." 


In striking contrast, we find the satirical monk of 


" The other day I was in Paradise, 
Therefore am I gay and joyous. 
For most pleasant to me 
Was God, he whom all things obey, 
Earth, sea, vale and mountain ; 
And he said to me, ' Monk, why comest thou, 
Why art not at Montalbon, 
Where you have greater company ? ' 

* Monk, it pleaseth me not 

That thou should'st be shut in a cloister, . . . 

But I love rather song and laughter. 

The world is better for them 

And Montalbon gets a rake-off.' " 

That is, the income of the monastic house is increased 
by its reputation for hospitaHty. 

Peire Cardinal's violent invectives against the corrup- 
tion of the church temporal should be read by anyone 
interested in the history of the period. There is in 
Farnell ^ a good account of Cardinal, and some notice of 
Guillem Figieira, another satirist. 

The "tenzon," or song of dispute, is relatively unim- 
portant in~~^^(5vence. The most favourable idea of this 
form is to be gained from the " Fresca rosa aulentis- 
sima" of the Sicilian, Ciullo d'Alcamo,^ but this is 
nearer to the "Pastorella" than to the "Tenzo," which 
was properly not a dramatic dialogue, but an argument 
about a theory or on such a question as " which man 
did Lady Maent honour most ; him on whom she smiled, 
him whose hand she touched, or him whom she tapped 
with her foot under the table." 

The Pastorella has a peculiar interest in so far as it 
is one of the roots of modern drama. This form of 
dialogue is never more sprightly than when used by 

1 Ida Farnell, " Lives of the Troubadours." David Nutt, pub. 

2 Vtd. Rossetti's « Early Italian Poets." 


one of the earliest singers, Marcabrun, from whom we 
have the following : — 

" The other day beside a hedge 
I found a low-born shepherdess. 
Full of joy and ready wit, 

And she was the daughter of a peasant woman ; 
Cape and petticoat and jacket, vest and shirt of fustian, 
Shoes and stockings of wool. 

I came towards her through the plain, 

' Damsel,' said I, ' pretty one, 

I grieve for the cold that pierces you.' 

* Sir,' said the peasant maid, 
' Thank God and my nurse 

I care little if the wind ruffles me, 
For I am happy and sound.' 

* Damsel,' said I, ' pleasant one, 

I have turned aside from the road 

To keep you company. 

For such a peasant maid 

Should not, without a suitable companion, 

Shepherd so many beasts 

In such a lonely place.' 

* Sir,' she said, ' whoever I am, 
I well know sense from folly. 

Your companionship, sir,' so said the peasant maid, 

' Even if your companionship were set where it should be. 

Whoever had it wouldn't have much to boast of 

' Damsel of gentle bearing. 

Your father was a gentleman, he who begot you in your mother, 

For she was a courteous peasant. 

The more I look at you the more you please me. 

And I'd take pleasure in making you happy, 

If you were only a little human.' 

' Sir, all my family and my lineage 

I see swinging and drawing the scythe and the plow. 

Sir,' so spake the peasant maid. 


' But there are such folk playing at knighthood 
As ought to be doing the same 
Six days out of the week.' 

' Damsel,' said I, ' gentle fairy 

The stars gave you at your birth a marvellous beauty ' " ; 

Etc. . . . 

The adventure is finally brought to a " successful " 

There is a series of " pastorellas " by Giraut Riquier, 
"the last of the Troubadours," which is not without 
interest. The last of the series begins : 

" To St Pos of Tomeiras 
I came the other day, 
AU dabbled with the rain. 
Into the power of an inn-hostess. 
Whom I didn't know. 
And I was greatly surprised when the old woman grinned. . . . 

It is the forgotten " toza " or damsel of his earlier 
pastorals, and the courtly Riquier, finding that she has 
a grown daughter, takes up the old game with the 
second generation, who is, it seems, as obstinate as her 



Dante tells us that the best narrative poetry of the 
Middle Ages was written in the "langue d'oil," the 
dialect of Northern France. The subjects of these longer 
poems, germane to all mediseval Europe, are catalogued 
in the Provengal romance, " Flamenca," in a description 
of a wedding feast, and of how the jongleurs told tales 
thereat. The original is quite as crude as the following 
translation : the octosyllabic verse is that ordinarily used N 
in such narratives. 

"Who would to hear divers accounts 
Of kings and marquises and ' countes ' 
Could hear of them full all he would. 
No ear was there in grievous mood, 
For one there told of Priamus, 
Another spoke of Piramus, 
Another counts fair Helen's worth, 
How Paris sought, then led her forth. 
Another told of Aeneas, 
And of Queen Dido's dolorous pass, 
Abandoned in such wretched state. 
One of Lavinia doth relate. 
Whose note on quarrel-bolt did fly 
To him who watched the tower most high. 
One told of PoUonices, 
Of Tideus and Etiocles. 
Another told of AppoUoine, 
How that he held Tyre and Sidoine. 
One there told ' King Alexander,' 
Another ' Hero and Leander.' " 


And so on — of Catmus, of Jason and the Dragon, 
of Alcides, of Phyllis and Demophon, Narcissus, Phito, 
Orpheus, Philistine Goliath, Samson and Delilah, Mac- 
abeu; and of "Julius Cassar, how he passed the sea 
quite alone, and did not pray to Nostre Senor because 
he knew no fear of water." 

" One spoke of that Table Round 
Where came no man, save he were found 
Fit for the King's recognisance, 
Where never failed their valiance. 
And of Don Gavain spoke there one. 
And of the lion his companion. 
And of that knight who Lunette freed ; 
To the Breton maid one there gave heed. 
That held Sir Lancelot in prize 
And gave him ' no ' for all his sighs. 
Another tells of Percival 
Who rode his horse into the hall. 
One telleth ' Eric and Enida,' 
And one ' Ugonet of Perida.' 
And one recounts how Governail 
Had for Sir Tristram grave travail. 
Another of Feniza saith. 
Her nurse caused her to play at death. 
The ' Fair Unknown's ' tale one doth yield. 
And one speaks ' The Vermilion Shield.' " 

And further, of Guiflet, Calobrenan, Quec the 
Seneschal, Mordred, Ivet ; the Star of Ermeli; the 
trick of the old man of the mountain ; how Karles 
Maines held Germany. 

" Of Clodoven and of Pipi 
(Clodovic and Pipin) 
One doth all the history tell, 
And one of how from glory fell 
Don Lucifer '■per son ergoiU 
One tells 'The Valet of Nantoil,' 
And one ' Olivier of Verdun.' 
One speaks the verse of Marcabrun 
(An early troubadour). 


One there tells how Daedalus 

Knew well to fly, while Icarus 

Was drownM for his flippancy " ; etc. 

Here we have some extended notice of what 
Dante notes ("D. V. E." i. 10) as "Translations from 
the Bible, compilations of exploits of Trojans and 
Romans, and the exquisite legends of King Arthur." 
" Arturi regis ambages pulcerrimae, et quam plures 
aliae historias ac doctrinse." Among this, " quite a 
number of other histories and doctrines," we must 
count the Changons de Geste, represented in the 
" Flamenca " by the names Charlemagne, Clodovic, 
and Pipin ; and the didactic poetry not noted in the 

Now, for the finest of these " Changons de Geste," 
these songs of action, we must seek, not among the 
lilies of France, but, 

" Sotto la proiezion del grande scudo 
In che soggiace il leone e soggioga." 

"Paradise," xii. 153-4. 

That is, in Spain, beneath that " great shield whereon 
the lion submits and subdues." 

Dante is little concerned with Spain, as was natural, 
he and the " Poema del Cid " being contemporary ; and 
the langue d'oc, the Provengal, having held long the 
lordship of all courtly verse. Even the earlier French 
efforts toward epic-making ^ seem to have interested him 
httle. This also is just, Virgil being his guide, and the 
French changons not being in his day sufficiently old to 
charm by their mere quaintness. 

In Italy the songs^f_degd are not indigenous, and 
after one has fallen back in sheer exhaustion from the 

1 One must clearly distinguish between the " romance " and the 
epic or " geste." 


later Italian embroiderings on them, one might wish 
they had never been imported. 

There are many who will disagree with my prefer- 
ence of the " Cid," and cry up the chanson de Roland 
as the finer poem ; but in its swiftness of narration, its 
vigour, the humanness of its characters, for its inability 
to grow old, the Spanish "geste" seems to me to 
surpass its French predecessor, and to merit the first 
place in our attention. 

The '^ Poema del Cid" 

From the opening, in his dismantled castle at Bivar, 
where the scene and speech are not unworthy of Greek 
tragedy, it is the unquenchable spirit of that most 
glorious bandit, Ruy Diaz, which gives life to the verse 
and to the apparently crude rhythm. Looking upon 
the barren perches of the hawks, and the desolation of 
Bivar, the Cid, sobbing greatly, says : 

" I thank thee. Lord Father, who art on high, that 
this thing has come upon me through mine evil enemies! " 
{i.e. and not through my own misdeeds). 

It is in this spirit that he accepts all the odds against 
him. Next we find it in his buoyant greeting to 
Albarfanez — 

" Albricias ! " (the messenger's cry for largesse, the 
reward for having brought good tidings). 

"Albricias! Albarfanez, for we are thrown out of 
the land ! " 

The next delight is in the scene with the little maid 
of nine. After the ride from Bivar, Myo Cid comes 
to his town house, "su posar," in Burgos, but the 
King's letters have been before him, and everything is 
closed against him ; even in his own house they fear to 


jreet him, and when he comes thundering up the 
larrow cobbled street, and beating at the door with his 
nailed heel, they send out to a balcony or window, a 
:hild, who repeats child-wise, parrot-wise, the exact 
words of the King's writ. This is as true to the child 
is is the drawing of all the varied individuals in the 
Poema to humanity ; and it is for this drawing to the 
ife, and for the variety of actors who are individuals, 
lot figures, that the Poema owes much of its vitality ; 
|ust as it is to the Spanish sense of tableau and dramatic 
setting, that the Poema owes so much of its charm. 
For example, here : the crowded street, the variegated 
trappings of the men, the armour and the pennants ; 
md round about them that great natural theatre, on 
the Greek pattern : the castle of Burgos on the hills 
behind, and the sweep of las campafias beneath them ; 
md in the midst the child, lisping high words in all 
simplicity ; and the grave, bearded Campeador mounted 
below her, assenting with as fine a simplicity : it takes 
but a handful of lines in the Spanish. 

As in the Greek, or, indeed, as in any moving poetry, 
the simple lines demand from us who read, a completion 
af the detail, a fulfilment or crystallization about them, 
af their implied beauty. The poet must never infringe 
upon the painter's function; the picture must exist 
iround the words ; the words must not attempt too far 
to play at being brush strokes. 

The next set of tableaux is as vivid as it is different 
From the last ; and it is as psychological, as simple, and 
IS dramatic as anything in modern literature. 

Martin Antolinez, el Burgales de pro, despite the 
King's orders, brings supplies to Ruy Diay, going into 
voluntary exile by this act. He and the Cid then 
irrange the picaresque hoax upon the two Jews, Raquel 
md Vidas. The Cid has been exiled on the false 


charge of malversation of booty taken at a certain 
siege ; he and Antolinez now turn this to their advan- 
tage, and repair their lack of funds. Two chests, 
covered with vermilion leather and studded with gold 
nails, are carefully filled with sand and offered for 
pawn, on condition that they be not disturbed for a 
year. Antolinez's manipulation of the brokers, eager 
enough for gain to treat with a banished man by stealth, 
is delightful. The author's quaint humour is shown as 
he talks of their joy at the great weight of the splendid 
chests, and in Antolinez's further guile. 

"Well, Raquel and Vidas, I've done you a good 
turn. It seems to me my work is worth a pair of 

He gets the price of the breeches, thirty marks of 

The next tableau is the Cid's farewell to Dona 
Ximena at San Pedro Cardena, where he leaves with 
the Abbot, Don Sancho, money for her keep : there is 
none of that disregard of the means of life prevalent in 
certain types of modern novel. 

Then begins the series of my Cid's triumphs. 
Castejon is taken by ambush, the booty re-sold to the 
Moors, and the town abandoned. Alcocer, the strong, 
is taken by the stratagem of a feigned retreat. The 
Gid is here shown to be as well supplied with common- 
sense as is Quixote with romantic ideals. There is no 
petty spite in the man; no regard for convention. 
Speaking to Pedro Vermuez, who bore the standard, 
he says, concerning the captives, "We will gain 
nothing by killing them, they cannot be sold, there- 
fore let them serve us." 

Next, King Tarn in besieges them : the odds are over- 
whelming, but being unable to escape, they determine 
to fight. Vermuez, impatient of attack, rushes on 


alone, and plants the ensign in the midst of the Moors, 
where he maintains it until rescued. Ormsby, in his 
translation, here brings out much of the motion of the 
passage describing the charge of the lances : they are 
fighting 300 to 3000. 

" Trezientas laitfas son, todas, tienen pendmes ; 
Senos moras mataron, todos de senos colpes ; 
Ala tornada que fazen otros tantos son. 
Veriedes tantas lanfas premer y alfar, 
Tanta adarga foradar y passar, 
Tanta lorigafalssa desmanchar 
Tantos pendones blancos salir en sangre 
Tantos buenos cavallos sin sos duenos andar." 

Roughly : 

" Three hundred lances are they, with pennants every one ; 
Each man kills his Moor, with single blows 'tis done, 
And now at their returning as many more go down. 
And ye might well have seen there so many lances press and rise. 
And many an oval shield there riven lies. 
The ill-forged coats-of-mail in sunder fly. 
In blood there issue the many bannerets white, 
And many a good horse runs there whom no man doth ride. " ^ 

There is constant drama not only in the action, but 
in the contending passions of the actors. When, after 
this victory, the Cid sends Minaya back to Alfonso 
with 300 caparisoned horses, the King speaks thus : 
" Three weeks is too little time in which to pardon a 
man who has earned my wrath, but since it is from the 
Moors, I accept the gift. You, Minaya, I pardon and 
restore you your lands ; as for the Cid, I say nothing, 
but anyone who likes has my permission to join him 
without fear of having his holdings confiscated." 

The Cid moves on to the pine-wood of Tebar, and 

1 Not having "Ormsby" at hand, I have had to use my own 
translation, which, however, follows the assonance of the original. 


levies tribute up to Saragossa. Raymond Berengar, 
Count of Barcelona, spoken of as a Frenchman, is 
offended and comes against him. Taken unaware, the 
Cid tries to avoid conflict, is forced into it, boasts of 
the GaHcian saddles of his company, vs^ins the battle 
and the sword " Colada." Berengar is shown as a fine 
foe : captive, he refuses to eat for three days, until 
the Cid promises to free him and two other knights. 
For his friends' sake he eats and is set free. The 
Cid wishes him good speed and invites him to come 
back and have another go at fighting when he feels 
inchned. "You can go in peace from me, my 
Cid," replies Berengar. "I've paid you in full for 
this year." 

Next, my Cid is shown speaking like a character in 
one of Shaw's plays. The Valencians have come 
against him. He says : " Well, we are come into 
their land, we do them much ill, we levy tribute and 
drink their wine and eat their bread ; they come to 
assail us and they are right. To-morrow we exiles will 
go out against them and see who deserves his pay." 

" And in the white of the dawn my Cid went to smite them. 
' In the name of the Creator and Sant lago, smite them, caval- 

leros, with love and great willingness. 
For I am Ruy Diaz, my Cid of Bivar ! ' 
And many a tent-cord you might have seen broken, 
And many a pole wrenched up and many a tent lying flat." 

After the victory, two Moorish kings are slain, three 
years are spent in general operations, driving the Moors 
back to the sea-coast. Then after ten months' siege 
Valencia surrenders: the "Senna" (banner) is set on 
the Alcazar. 

The King of Seville, with thirty thousand men, comes 
against them and is defeated. The Cid's beard increases 
in length ; he swears it shall be famous among Moors 


and Christians alike. This is, of course, a memory of 
Charlemagne, " le roi a la barbe chenue." 

The warrior bishop Jeronimo appears for the first 
time and is given the spiritual rule in Valencia. He 
recalls the fighting bishop Turpin in the Chan5on de 
Roland ; but he is a type of the time, and not necessarily 
a figure borrowed by the author from the older poem. 

The Cid sends back to Castile for his wife, and sends 
a hundred horses to Alfonso. 

Here ends the pure " geste " of the Cid, and here, 
or hereabouts, begins the "Romance" of the Cid, or 
rather the " Romance of the Infantes of Carrion." 

To Minaya at court come Raquel and Vidas demand- 
ing repayment. They are put off. In court appear 
Garcia Ordonez, grumbling about my Cid, and the 
Infantes of Carrion whispering together. At Valencia 
my Cid rides to meet his family, and the newly-taken 
steed Bavieca is seen for the first time in the poem and 
is approved for his speed. The Cid takes his wife and 
daughters to the Alcazar to show them his captured 
city and the sea. 

Next March, Morocco, with fifty thousand men, 
comes against them. " 4000 less 30 has my Cid." After 
the victory the tent of the King of Morocco is sent to 
Alfonso. Garcia Ordonez grumbles. The Infantes 
openly ask the Cid's daughters from Alfonso. The 
King offers pardon to my Cid and suggests the mar- 
riages, and one notes that the King is spoken of as 
"Alfonso, el de Leon'''' (He of Leon). The poem is 
distinctly Castilian. A meeting is arranged, and the 
King receives Myo Cid. The Cid says his daughters 
are too young to marry, but that the King may do as 
he likes. Thus the responsibility is thrown upon the 
King. The wedding takes place, and the first " Cantar " 
ends with all living happily in Valencia. 


" The coplas of this ' Cantar ' go finishing themselves here. 
May the Creator avail you and all the Saints." 

The second " Cantar " opens as stageably, if not so 
seriously, as the first. 

The Cid is sleeping, and his pet lion, escaping, 
terrifies the two Infantes. Ferran takes refuge under 
the Cid's bed, and Diego, rushing through the door, 
leaps upon the beam of a wine-press, evidently in use, to 
judge by his subsequent appearance. My Cid wakes, 
leads the lion back to his cage, and calls for the Infantes, 
who appear, to the great amusement of the company. 
My Cid orders silence, but the Infantes hold themselves 
insulted. Things being in this condition, Bucar comes 
against Valencia with fifty thousand tents. The In- 
fantes show the white feather, but enter the battle, 
after which everyone else is described by name as having 
done valiant deeds. After the battle the Cid, with a 
most irritating magnanimity, still pretends to believe in 
their valour. The Infantes ask leave to depart with 
their wives, which is granted. 

They plot the death of Avengalon, a Moorish ally of 
the Cid, who is acting as their escort; but they are 
detected, and he leaves them alone. They abandon 
the Cid's daughters in the wood of Colpes, thinking 
they have beaten them to death. Feliz Munoz, the 
Cid's nephew, finds the daughters ; they are restored, 
and vengeance is demanded from the king. 

The subsequent scene is arranged in the best 
theatrical crescendo. In the "Cortes," the third which 
Alfonso has held, my Cid demands first the swords 
Colada and Tizon, which he has given to the Infantes ; 
they are granted him. Then his possessions ; they also 
are granted. Then vengeance for the outrage upon his 
children in the wood of Colpes. Judgment is given. 
The Kings of Navarre and Aragon appear. The 


Infantes are killed in combat. The Cid's daughters 
marry Navarre and Aragon in splendour, and the poem 
of the Cid ends : 

*' To-day the Kings of Spain are of his blood, 
To all doth honour increase through him, born in a good hour. 
He passed from this life on the day of Cinquesslma. 
May he have pardon of Christ ! 
Thus may we alljust to sinners ! 
These are the tales of my Cid Campeador, 
In this place is the telling completed. 
May he who wrote this book see God's Paradise, Amen ! 
Per Abbat wrote it in the month of May, 1245,1 and in romance. 
It is read, give us wine if you have no money." 

Upon learning from historical sources that the actual 
Ruy Diaz of Bivar was not a drivelling sentimentalist, 
but a practical fighting man, certain people have seen 
fit to speak of disillusion, and to marvel (in print) that 
he came to be chosen the national hero of Spain. 

Upon the outer walls of the church of San Juan de 
los Reyes, in Toledo, there hang to this day huge rows 
of fetters of no delicate pattern, fetters struck from 
Christian captives when the town was last re-taken 
from the Moors. Anyone who has looked thoughtfully 
at this display of venerable restraints understands, I 
believe, how any man capable of waging successful war 
upon the children of the Prophet might have gained, to 
speak gently, a certain popularity. 

The relation of the Cid of the "Poema" to the 
historical Cid is outside the scope of the present 
treatise ; the matter is most admirably presented by 
Mr Fitzmaurice Kelly in his "Chapters on Spanish- 
Literature," from which one concludes that if the 

1 At least I believe that is Sr. Ramon Menendez Pidal's present 
opinion as to the reading of the date. Per Abbat is by many supposed 
to have been the copyist, not the author. 


Campeador had set out with a set of beautiful ideals, 
and an earnest desire to become the idol of ballad 
writers for the next eight centuries, it is unlikely that 
he would ever have taken Valencia ; and although his 
biographer, had the humour of the twelfth century been 
sufficiently delicate, might have produced an abortive 
sort of Don Quixote, we should still lack the bravest of 
" cantares." 

Some comparison of the Poema del Cid with its French 
predecessor is inevitable ; it will be well, therefore, to 
give heed to two admirers of the Changon de Roland. 

The French epopee, according to Gaston Paris, takes 
its source under Clodovic, and becomes apparent in the 
time of Karl Martel : the three figures, Martel, Charle- 
magne, and Charles the Bald, are later amalgamated 
into one heroic figure, " a la barbe chenue." 

The " Roland," dating in its present form from the 
second half of the eleventh century, is based upon the 
historic fact, which an earlier Latin chronicler dismisses 
thus : 

" In this battle Edghardus, master of the royal table, 
Anselmus count palatine, and Rollandus prsefect of the 
borders of Brittany, with very many others, were killed." 

That is, Hrodland, Count of the March of Brittany, 
commanding the rearguard of Charlemagne's army, was 
defeated by the Basques in the Valley of Roncevaux, 
August 15, 778 A.D., Charles the Great being at 
this time thirty-six years of age. 

Three centuries later this tale has solidified into 4002 
verses, in what Paris terms the "national style," which 
style is likely to seem a rather wooden convention to an 
outlander. The personality of the author is said to be 
" suppressed," although it might be more exact to 
say that it has been worn away by continuous oral 


Summarizing further, from Paris' lecture on the 
" Chan90n de Roland et la Nationalite frangaise " : 

" You will remember that from their conversion the 
French proclaimed themselves the people beloved of 
Christ, chosen by him to defend his church." 

This ideal pertains in the Chanson : the enemies have 
changed, being no longer idolaters whom it is necessary 
to convert. They are Mahometans, but the French 
Christians are little concerned with distinctions : so far 
as the dramatic proportion is concerned they are 
" pagans." These pagans held Spain ; the duty of 
France is to take it from them, because they have a 
false religion. The poet needs no more than this to 
write with full conviction : 

" The pagans are wrong, the French are right." 

Charlemagne hesitates not a moment when he has 
taken Saragossa, to convert the population en bloc, in 
most rudimentary fashion, 

" En la citet n'est retnis paiens 
Ne sett ocis, on dev'ien crestiens." 

" In the city remained no pagan 
Who was not killed, or turned Christian." 

Paris notes this feeling of national destiny, the love 
of la douce France, and the love of the national honour, 
as the three quahties giving to the poem its " grandiose 
character." But we, who have not had our literary interest 
in the poem stimulated of late by the Franco-Prussian 
war and the feelings of outraged patriotism attendant 
thereupon, are likely to notice a certain tedious redun- 
dancy, before being charmed by this " caractere 

The poem is nevertheless quite interesting as a monu- 


ment to " la nationalite fran5aise." Its championship of 
Christianity against Paganism makes it almost as much 
of Christendom as of France : it is most certainly heroic 
in outline; far more so than the Cid. 

Threatened by the Franks, the Spanish king and the 
Sarrasin Marsille in Saragossa sue for peace. Ganelon, 
Charlemagne's ambassador, bears the reply ; but, jealous 
of Roland, he arranges to betray him to the enemy for 
a price. Charlemagne, told that Marsille accepts his 
terms, is, in spite of warning dreams, persuaded to leave 
Roland behind with the rearguard. 

Marsille attacks this rearguard ; Oliver sensibly 
advises Roland to sound his horn to call back the 
Emperor. Roland bombastically refuses. The warrior 
Bishop Turpin blesses the French, but neither Roland's 
hardihood nor the sanctity of the Bishop avert the 
natural result. Roland, dying, sounds the "olifan," 
and recalls the Emperor, who, by the way, is already 
thirty leagues off. All the rearguard are slain. Charles 
takes terrible vengeance, aided by Ogier, Geoffrey 
of Anjou, and the Duke Nayme. Saragossa is 
garrisoned, and the dead of Roncivaux are buried with 

Aude now appears for the first and last time, 
faints, and dies of grief at hearing of the death 
of her betrothed Roland : Ganelon is punished : 
the widow of Marsille is converted. "St Gabriel, de 
la part de Dieu," comes to tell Charles to go to new 
conquests ; and Charles (reversing the attitude of 
Alexander) weeps in his white beard at the prospect 
of carrying a crusade into Syria. 

"Ah, la vaillante epopee, chevalresque et bien 
frangaise ! " exclaims Leo Claretie. It is, indeed, 
French, and Roland is well the hero. He is GalifFet 
at Strasbourg; and we hear somewhat his echo in 


Cyrano's " quel geste ! " He is splendid and absurd. 
Take this, perhaps the finest passage in the poem, to 
witness : 

" Then Roland felt that death approached, 
His brains rush out through his ears. 
He prays God to receive his peers. 
He confides himself to the angel Gabriel. 
He takes the orifan (his horn), to be without reproach, 
And his sword Durendal in the other hand. 
Further than an arblast sends a quarrel bolt 
He goes towards Spain, he enters a field and mounts a hillock. 
Four marble rocks surround two beautiful trees. 
On the green grass he falls backward. 
He swoons, for death is near to him. 
High are the mountains and very high are the trees. 
There are four shining rocks of marble. 
Upon the green grass the Count Roland swoons. 
A Sarrasin had his eyes open. 
Feigning death he lies among the others. 
Blood reddens his body and his visage. 
He rises to his feet and runs forward. 
He was great, of very great bravery. 
Full of pride and of mortal rage. 
He seized Roland, his body and his armour. 
And spoke thus : ' The nephew of Charles, conquered ! 
This sword will I carry away into Arable." 

The Count awakes, feeling himself pulled about. 
Then Roland feels that someone is drawing the sword 
from him ; he opens his eyes and says : 

" ' By my faith ! you are not one of us.' 
He holds the orifan, whereof he would not leave hold. 
He smites (the Sarrasin ?) on the * cimier ' all overworked with 

Despite the steel and the cap within the helmet, and the bones. 
The Sarrasin's eyes burst from his head. 
He falls dead at his feet. 

Then he said to him, ' Gredin, how were you so hardy, 
As to touch me either right or wrong ? 
Whoever might hear of it would hold you for a fool. 



I have split my orifan, 

I have spoiled the carbuncles and the gold.' ^ 

Then Roland felt that the life went from him. 

He rises to his feet as well as he could manage it, 

The colour is gone from his visage, 

Before him was a brown rock ; 

Ten blows he struck in grief and rage. 

The steel cracked, but neither broke nor split. 

And said the Count : ' St Mary, aid ! 

Ah, good Durendal, what dolour ! 

I can no longer use you, but I do not neglect you ! 

In how many battles have I conquered with you ! 

And for such great lands have I battled 

To give them to Charles who has the white beard. 

You could never belong to a poltroon, 

A bold soldier would have kept you long. 

Never will there be his equal in free France.' 

Roland struck upon the rock of ' Sardonic.' 

The steel cracked, but it broke not, nor split. 

When he saw that he could not break it 

He commenced to lament to himself: 

' O Durendal, how white you are. 

To the gay sunshine you gleam, you flame ! ' " 

These last two lines are certainly pure poetry. 

Then he recalls his past glories, and again tries to 
break the sword; he shivers the hilt, but the blade 
rebounds and points heavenwards ; he prays to the 
sword in vain, and death comes upon him. 

" There he is lying under a pine ! the Count Roland ! 
He wished to turn toward Spain, 
He stretches to God the glove of his right hand : 
St Gabriel received it. 
Then his head falls on his arm, 
He is gone, hands joined, to his end. 
God sent to him His angel Cherubim, 
St Raphael, and St Michael of Paul. 
St Gabriel is come with them. 
They take the soul of the count to Paradise." 

^ Landor and his violets ! 


It is glorious ; it is utterly French. A victim, not 
to the treachery of Ganelon, but to that pride which 
forbade him to sound the horn for aid, he dies. Per- 
fect is the pose chivalric, perfect the piety ! The hero 
goes out of this Changon of Gesture, and one feels that 
perhaps he and the rest of the characters are not 
wooden figures, that they are simply French. Heroic 
he is, and his hands are joined, in death he forgets not 
etiquette. Well is he the hero of the French. 

But as one is grateful for Cervantes after Monte- 
mayor, so is one grateful for the refreshment of the 
Spanish Poema, and for that bandit Ruy Diaz. I 
perhaps profane the Roland : the death scene is 
poignant ; parts of it are natural ; all of it might 
seem natural to minds diiferently poised. Poetry it 
has in plenty ; its stiffness may often become, or seem 
to become, dignity ; but the quality of eternal youth is 
not in it, as it is in the Spanish Poema, or in the old 
captive's song fable, " Aucassin and Nicolette." 

Whatever the " Cid " owes to the " Roland," it is an 
immeasurable advance in simplicity ; it is free from the 
striving for effect, as in the two trees and four white 
stones of marble: it is free from any such exaggera- 
tions as a horn heard at thirty leagues distance. Indeed, 
the " Roland " is either too marvellous to be natural or 
too historical to allure by its mystery. In the realm of 
magic, the land of the "Romances," one expects, one 
demands, the delight of haunted fountains, bewitched 
castles, ships that move unguided to their appropriate 
havens ; and the Breton cycle, the cycle of Arthur, 
was already furnishing them to the mediaeval audience and 
supplanting the semi-verities of the " Matter of France." 

The third matter, that of "Rome le Grant," need 
hardly concern us ; it is interesting chiefly in so far as 
it shows us how vague were the mediaeval ideas of 


antiquity. The "Roland" is to be regarded as the 
summit of the French cycle ; which is, except for this 
poem, interesting only now and again, as in the Pro- 
ven9al Geste of " Giraut of Rousillon " ; more direct in 
its style than the " Roland," or in such incidents as that 
of the first merry-go-round, which is amusingly narrated 
in the " Pelerinage de Charlemagne." 

The mediaeval critic, fond of trite formulae, and of 
divisions by three, says that the only fit matters for the 
narrative poet to write about are : the deeds of France, 
of Britain, and of Rome the Great. 

Whatever we can learn from the medijeval redaction 
of the events of Greek and Roman antiquity can be 
more easily learned from the beautiful illumination of an 
early fifteenth century book, which has recently been 
displayed in the National Gallery. It represents Ca-sar 
■crossing the Rubicon, he and his hosts being arrayed in 
the smartest fashions of the late Middle Ages. 

The hterary artist objects to being bound by actual 
events, and the folk cry out for marvels. Moreover, 
there are ladies to be entertained ; ladies, bored some- 
what by constant and lengthy descriptions of combats, 
not greatly differing one from another. The songs of 
more or less historical happenings go out of vogue; 
the romances — weaker sisters of the songs of deed — 
gradually usurp the first place in the interest of the 

Of the writers of "marchen," Marie de France is 
perhaps the most readable. Crestien de Troyes is 
the recognized master; while the one immortal tale, 
the "Tristan," comes down to us in the versions of 
Thomas and of Beroul. 

Marie's " lais " give us the romantic tales in simpler, 
shorter form. With them we return to the land of 
Hear-say, with which Apuleius has made us familiar. 


In a preface addressed to someone called " the King," 
Marie writes thus of the reasons and purpose of her 
writing : 

" Wherefore 1 began to think of making some good 
histories, bringing them from Latin into romance ; but 
this meseemed hardly worth while, seeing so many 
others were already set to it, and then I thought me of 
the "lais" which I had heard. I did not doubt — ;nay, 
I well knew — that those who first began them and sent 
them forth, made them for remembrance of adventures 
they had heard. Many of them I heard told, and I 
would not have them forgotten. I have rimed them, 
and made ' dities ' of them ; many a time have I kept 
vigil in doing it. . . . 

"In honour of you, noble king ... I have set to 
gathering the 'lais,' to make rimes and re-tell them." 

As the translations ^ of these " lais " are available to 
all I shall not quote them at length. 

The tale of Guigemar, what befell him in Britain the 
Less, opens with a formula which might well recall the 
Pervigilium Veneris. 

"Whereat shall marvel all who love, and have loved, 
and shall love hereafter." 

" Ki aiment e amh avrunt 
U ki puis amerunt apres." 

There is a like thing at the beginning of the " Amadis 
and Ydoine " to greater extent. 

" Communalement vous qui aves 
Ami et vous qui ore ames 
Et trestuit cil qui ameront. 

1 By Jessie L. Weston and by Edith Rickert in Nutt's " Arthurian 


Qui esperance d^amer ont, 

Vous qu aves o'i damours 

Seknc k conte des auctours 

Et en latin et en romans . . ." etc. 

Marie's lay is of Britain the Less ; of Guigemar, who 
adventureth all things save love alone, until one day 
a-hunting he sees a white hind with stag's horns. The 
arrow which he shoots rebounds and wounds him. 
The hind speaks, telling him that he can get no cure 
save of one who shall suffer for love of him, so that it 
will be a marvel to all lovers. In his distress he comes 
to the sea-board, and finds a magical ship decked with 
gold and ivory, which takes him oversea to the water- 
gate of a tower, wherein is one prisoned by a jealous 
lord, and then, naturally, the story tells of the love and 
pains they bore. 

The second tale is of a slanderous wife and a found- 
ling hidden in an ash tree. The third is of the moun- 
tain, "Cote des deux Amants," in Normandy; and of 
how the lover, trying to carry his love to the top of it, 
in compliance with the conditions set by her father, 
dies of the strain, and she of grief. 

The next is of an imprisoned lady, to whom her love 
came in the form of a falcon ; and amongst the rest are 
the lays of the Werewolf " Bisclavret " ; of Eiliduc and 
the ladies Guildeluec and Guillodun ; of Lanval and the 
fairy lady that bore him to Avalon ; of Gungeamor, who 
is none other than Oisin, who goes hunting the boar, and 
is met by the lady of the fountain, who leads him into a 
wonderful country for three seeming days, that are three 
hundred years ; after which he comes back, unbelieving, 
and tells the tale to a charcoal burner, gives him the 
boar's head, and is received back into the fairy country. 

In the lay of " Tyolet " there is an interesting note 
as to origins. Marie says : 


"The clerks of the court wrote out the tales in 
Latin, and from Latin they were turned into Romance, 
whence, as our ancestors tell us, the Bretons make 
many a lay." 

Of course this solves nothing : the fairies are Celtic j 
the decorative incident is now biblical, now seemingly 
Ovidian; and the tales are a delight as they stand, 
which is really all that matters. They vary in length 
and in antiquity ; from pre-Arthurian myths, and " lais " 
that are really short romances, to idylls like that of the 
"Nightingale," which might have been based on an 
incident of Marie's own time. 

The work of Crestien de Troyes has been lately 
translated by W. W. Newell,^ and is available to all. 

The tales move more swiftly than the similar tales in 
Malory's "Morte d' Arthur." Crestien has a fine eye 
for the colour of mediaeval pageantry and some fidelity 
to nature. The tales are to-day what they were to 
Dante : " The very beautiful legends of King Arthur." 
As art, they are certainly no advance on Apuleius' 
" Cupid and Psyche." They belong to that vast body 
of pleasant literature which one should read when one 
feels younger than twenty. There are few people who 
can read more than a dozen or so of mediaeval romances, 
by Crestien or anyone else, without being over-wearied 
by the continual recurrence of the same or similar 
incidents, told in the same or a similar manner. 

It is undeniable that these tales make a definite and 
intentional appeal to the senses. And why not, some will 
ask. Does not all art appeal to the senses ? 

Great art is made, not to please, but to call forth, or \,^ 
create, an ecstasy. The finer the quality of this ecstasy, 7 
the finer the art: only secondary art relies on its ^ 

1 A. P. Watt & Sons. English Edition. 


The Tristan and Ysolt legend stands apart from the 
other romances. The original energy and beauty of 
its viotif have survived even the ignoble later versions, 
and have drawn to them beautiful words and beautiful 
minor incidents. 

The early texts of Thomas and Beroul are reprinted 
by the Societe des anciens textes frangais. Bedier's 
reconstruction of the tale from compared texts is avail- 
able both in his own French and in H. Belloc's English 
translation. The tale itself is, I presume, familiar in 
some form or another to everyone. 

Tristran, the child of sorrow, is born after the death 
of his father, Rivalen, King of Lyonesse. He is kid- 
napped by merchants ; that is, while he is intent on a 
game of chess aboard their ship, they sail with him to 
Ireland. Later, he comes to live with his uncle. King 
Mark of Cornwall. He slays the giant Morholt, who 
comes from Ireland to gather tribute — the tale of the 
Minotaur is somewhere in the background. He goes 
to Ireland to seek a bride for King Mark; a dragon 
is slain ; he is discovered to be the slayer of Morholt. 
After difficulties, he sets sail homeward with Ysolt. 
They drink of the magical cup ; love's hand is upon 
them, and the intrigue of the tale begins. 

From here on the tale has been elaborated by divers 
hands. There is discovery ; exile ; life together in the 
forest of Marrois. Presumably, in some lost version, 
their tragic death occurs about this time; but later 
interest demands that their adventures be prolonged. 
They are found with a drawn sword between them: 
they are pardoned by Mark; restored; discovered; 
Ysolt, tried by ordeal, is unscathed by the heated iron, 
because her oath of purity is true in letter, though 
misleading as to fact. Tristran is banished: his 
adventures with Ysolt of the White Hands, or the 


second Ysolt, Ysolt of Brittany, are interpolated : 
another giant slain, he returns to Cornwall disguised as 
a madman. The incandescent fairy dog Pticru creeps 
into the tale from some quaint Celtic source. The 
shining house of crystal and rose is discovered by 
someone ; and a great artist designs the death scene ; 
remembering Ovid, when he tells of the ship's sails and 
the fatal confusion of their colours. The Celtic origin 
of the tale is almost beyond dispute. But one never 
knows what strange lore came into Ireland during that 
earlier period of her culture, the fifth century, when 
Ireland made manuscripts for Europe. 

There is a Celtic hall-mark on one of the earlier 
intrigues, where Tristran sends messages to Ysolt, by 
dropping marked chips of wood into a stream which 
flows through her dwelling. The Celts are supposed 
to be the only people whose primitive lodges were built 
in such a fashion as to make this possible. 

In antithesis to this great tragedy, which owes its 
beauty to its theme, we find that most exquisite Picard 
comedy, the " Aucassin and Nicolette," which owes its 
immortal youth purely to the grace of its telling. I 
use "tragedy" and "comedy" with their looser 
meaning: Tristran and Ysolt are doomed from the 
beginning; Fate lays their love upon them; Aucassin 
the debonnair and the fair Nicolette are bom under 
gay stars. 

" Sweet the song, the story sweet, 
There is no man hearkens it. 
No man living 'neath the sun 
So outwearied, so foredone. 
Sick and woful, worn and sad, 
But is healed, but is glad 
'Tis so sweet." 

Andrew Lang was born in order that he might 


translate it perfectly, and he has fulfilled his destiny, 
bringing into his English all the gay, sunlit charm of 
the original. 

Turning to the other monuments of the century, we 
find one monolith which nothing has been able to 
modernize. I mean the " Romaunt of the Rose," which 
is as much of its time and of the three succeeding 
centuries as the Arthuriad is of all time. 

One sees the "romances" preparing for Chaucer; 
a part of the Romaunt comes also through the quill of 
" le grand translateur," as the " romances " find their 
prototype in Apuleius' "Cupid and Psyche." So the 
Romaunt of the Rose has Ovid's " Ars Amatoria" for 
father ; yet the resemblance is much tempered by the 
allegorical -Christian superstructure; by visions and 
symbolical figures; sometimes like Ovid's "Envy" of 
the Metamorphoses, but usually in closer resemblance 
to the abstractions of the subsequent mystery plays. 

Guillaume de Loris is the springtime of the poem, 
and John Clopinel of Meung its autumn. It was no 
new thing, for there had been much didactic poetry; 
yet no poem had such renown as came to this long- 
winded, metrical rumination about all things under 

It is gone, gone utterly, so far as its readableness is 
concerned. Youth attempts it once or twice: the 
philologist might remain suspended, if the language 
oiFered him were ground for controversy. Like Perse- 
polis, and the valiant cities of old, there yet remains a 
breath of romance in the name, but the site offers little. 
It has been a great book, the book of Europe for 
three centuries ; it is now a hunting-ground for the 
intrepidly curious. It has a most interesting "literary 
position," if one choose to regard it as an unconscious^ 
or semi-conscious, and abortive attempt to do what 


Dante did triumphantly in the " Commedia " — that is, 
to "catch the age in a net." This point of view, 
however, gives the Romaunt of the Rose a somewhat 
exaggerated importance, as neither Loris nor Clopinel 
seriously attempted to portray humanity. Loris is a 
pleasant rhymer and Clopinel a tedious theorist. The 
poem is, nevertheless, interesting to anyone who is 
studying the progress of the art of narrative. 

The narrative objective art precedes the narrative 
subjective. We have had short poems of emotion and 
expressions of personal feeling : we have had the tales, 
but with the Romaunt of the Rose we come to a third 
thing. [The Rose is not the first, but the best 
example for our purpose.] Striving for something to 
relieve the shallowness of the objective romances, we 
get the allegory, a sort of extension of the fable. The 
mediaeval author is not yet able to shed himself in 
completely self-conscious characters ; to make a mood ; 
slough it off very much as a snake does his skin, and 
then endow it with an individual life of its own. In 
the romances he has told of actions and speech and has 
generalized about the emotions. In the allegory he 
learns to separate himself, not yet from complete moods, 
but from simple qualities and passions, and to visualize 
them. Thus: Idleness, Jealousy, Youth, Nobility of 
heart, are called into being by a sort of Platonic 

The treatment of these long "prose di romanzi" 
may seem unsympathetic; but I feel fully convinced 
that most interest in them is archaeological rather than 
artistic, and that the people who can enjoy them 
are the exception; barring, of course, the Cid, the 
Tristan, the Aucassin and Nicolette, and such other 
poems, or parts of poems, as are needful to satisfy the 
lay curiosity concerning the literary manner and atmos- 


phere of the time. The modern vogue for them began 
with William Morris, and passed the zenith when he 
wrote " Love is Enough." For a more charitable and 
scholarly account of these poems I would refer to the 
chapter on France in Dr W. P. Ker's "Epic and 



" II milk cento trentacinque nato 
Fo quesio tempio, a Zorzi consecrato 
Fo Nicolau scolftore 
E Glielmofo I'autore." 

[Cut over the arch of the great altar in the Cathedral Church 
of Ferrara.] 

While Lorris and Clopinel were compiling their 
encyclopedia of what passed for wisdom, the tradition 
of Provence was being continued in Tuscany. 

The Albigensian crusade, a sordid robbery cloaking 
itself in religious pretence, had ended the gai savoir in 
southern France. The art of the Troubadours meets 
with philosophy at Bologna and a new era of lyric 
poetry is begun. 

Perhaps the most notable poem of the transition is 
the Sicilian Ciullo d'Alcamo's 

" Fresca rosa aulentissima," 

to be found translated in D. G. Rossetti's "Early 
Italian Poets." 

The poetry of St Francis of Assisi stands somewhat 
apart from the line of secular development. Some 
knowledge of this sort of poetry is necessary if one 
wishes to understand the period or to appreciate fully 
certain passages in the " Divina Commedia ; " as is also 
some acquaintance with that vast amount of prose con- 
cerning the lives of saints. The most beautiful work 
of this sort is, of course, "The Fioretti of St Francis." 



Of its hero's compositions, the finest is the " Cantico 
del Sole," wherein that "little sheep of God" speaks 
to the glory of the Father Eternal in a free unrhymed 
verse with a rhythm mighty as the words and well 
accompanying them : 

" Most high Signer, 
Yours are the praises, 
The glory and the honours. 
And to you alone must be accorded 
All graciousness ; and no man there is 
Who is worthy to name you. 
Be praised, O God, and be exalted, 
My Lord, of all creatures. 
And in especial of the most high Sun 
Which is your creature, O Lord, that makes clear 
The day and illumines it. 
Whence by its fairness and its splendour 
It is become thy face ; 

And of the white moon (be praised, O Lord) 
And of the wandering stars, 
Created by you in the heaven 
So brilliant and so fair. 
Praised be my Signor, by the flame 
Whereby night groweth illumined 
In the midst of its darkness, 
For it is resplendent. 
Is joyous, fair, eager ; is mighty. 
Praised be my Signor, of the air, 
Of the winds, of the clear sky. 
And of the cloudy, praised 
Of all seasons whereby 
Live all these creatures 
Of lower order. 
Praised be my Lord 
By our sister the water. 
Element meetest for man. 
Humble and chaste in its clearness. 
Praised be the Lord by our mother 
The Earth that sustaineth. 
That feeds, that produceth 


Multitudinous grasses 

And flowers and fruitage. 

Praised be my Signor, by those 

Who grant pardons through his love, 

Enduring their travail in patience 

And their infirmity with joy of the spirit. 

PraisM be my Signor by death corporal 

Whence escapeth not any one living. 

Woe to those that die in mutual transgression 

And blessed are they who shall 

Find in death's hour thy grace that doth come 

From obedience unto thy holy will, 

Wherethrough they shall never see 

The pain of the death eternal. 

Praise and give grace to my Lord, 

Be grateful and serve him 

In humbleness e'en as ye owe. 

Praise him all creatures ! " 

The text given in Paul Sabatier's " Vie de S. Fran- 
cois d' Assise " reads " brother sun," " sister moon and 
the stars," " brother wind," "brother fire." This, of 
course, accords with the practice in " The Fioretti " ; 
but the rhythm in Sabatier's text seems to me much 
less impassioned than that in the one I have translated, 
also its greater length is against its being the earlier 

For myself, '■'■hlanca luna" and '■'■vaghe stelle''' seem 
equally poetical ; but personal preference aside, the 
shorter, simpler form, the more vigorous, ecstatic 
rhythm, the version conforming less to the mannerisms 
of "The Fioretti," seems more probably to be the work 
of Francis himself Rhythm is the hardest quality of 
a man's style to counterfeit, and here one should com- 
pare the rhythm of the different versions of The Cantico 
del Sole to that of other franciscan poems, remembering 
that St Francis' rhythm is always influenced by the drone 
of the church services. 


The first Italian who can be said to have advanced 
the art of poetry is Guido Guinicelli of Bologna, the 
" Maximus Guido " of Dante's Latin works. So far 
as I can discern from available texts, he it was who first 
discovered that a certain form of canzone stanza is 
complete in itself. This form of stanza, standing alone, 
we now call the " sonnet." If Guido did not invent 
this form, he is, at least, the first who brought it to 
perfection. He also introduced into romance poetry 
that new style wherein the eyes and the heart and the 
soul have separate voices of their own, and converse 
together. It is true that he deliberates — overmuch 
for poetical purposes — on the state of man in this life 
and the next, but this must be forgiven him, seeing that 
he it was who opened new paths at a time when imita- 
tion of Provence was over-servile. 

Provence had had much paganism, unacknowledged, 
some heresy 1 openly proclaimed, and a good deal of 
conventional piety. Unquestioning they had worshipped 
Amor and the more orthodox divinities, God, Christ, 
and the Virgin. From Amor or his self-constituted 
deputies they had received a code of laws. To God 
and his saints they had prayed incuriously. 

The Tuscan bookworms suddenly find themselves in 
the groves of philosophy, God becomes interesting, and 
speculation, with open eyes and a rather didactic voice, 
is boon companion to the bard. 

Thought, which in Provence had confined itself to 
the manner, now makes conquest of the matter of verse. 

1 Jos. McCabe's " Life of Abelard " will give a fair idea of what 
the term heresy might mean in the Middle Ages. It is a most 
interesting account of this poet, whose love poems have perished. 
Abelard, as we know him, is the knight-errant of learning. He gave 
up his inheritance for study, as Daniel left learning to become a 


Abandon hope all ye who enter upon any extended 
study of this period without some smattering of scholastic 
philosophy. Hell we have had in Pindar and Virgil ; 
heaven, somewhat, in Plato; but the Tuscan poets 
gambol through the complicated Aquinean universe 
with an inconsequent preciseness which bewilders one 
accustomed to nothing more complex than modern 

Guinicelli escapes from labyrinthine circumplications 
in the famed and beautiful canzone which Rossetti has 
translated : 

" Within the gentle heart Love shelters him. 
As birds within the green shade of the grove. 
Before the gentle heart, in Nature's scheme 
Love was not, nor the gentle heart ere Love. 

The fire of Love comes to the gentle heart 
Like as its virtue to a precious stone ; 
To which no star its influence can impart 
Till it is made a pure thing by the sun." 

[For complete translation see the " Early Italian 

Rossetti has not translated this sonnet beginning : 

" Veduf ho la lucente Stella diana." 

" I have seen the shining star of the dawn 
Appearing ere the day doth yield its whiteness. 
It hath taken upon itself the form of a human face. 
Above all else meseems it giveth splendour. 
A face of snow, colour of the ivy-berry, 
The eyes are brilliant, gay, and full of love. 
And I do not believe that there is a Christian maid in the world 
So full of fairness or so valorous. 


Yea, I am so assailed of her worth, 

With such cruel battling of sighs. 

That I am not hardy to return before her ; 

Thus may she have cognisance of my desires : 

That without speaking, I would be her servitor 

For naught save the pity that she might have of mine anguish." 

Here the preciseness of the description denotes, I 
think, a clarity of imaginative vision. In more sophisti- 
cated poetry an epithet vi^ould suffice, the picture would 
be suggested. The dawn would be " rosy-fingered " or 
"in russet clad." The Tuscan poetry is, however, of a 
time when the seeing of visions was considered respect- 
able, and the poet takes delight in definite portrayal of 
his vision. The use of epithet is an advance on this 
method only when it suggests a vision not less clear, 
and its danger is obvious. In Milton or Swinburne, for 
example, it is too often merely a high-sounding word 
and not a swift symbol of vanished beauty. My use of 
"valorous" is archaic and perhaps unpardonable, but 
the orthodox word "worthy" has no aroma. 

Rossetti gives the following sonnet, but it would take 
several translations and some comment to exhaust the 
beauty of the original : 

" lo vo del ver la mia donna lodare." 

The octave : 

" I wish with truth to speak my Lady's praise. 
And liken her to rose and gilly flower. 
More than the dawn star's grace her splendour is. 
The green stream's marge is like her, and the air. 
And all her colours are yellow flowers and red. i 

Gold and silver and rich joys become more rar/fied, -»- 
Yea, Love himself meseems refined through her." 

In this connection one must remember that alchemy 
and mystical philosophy interpenetrate each other, and 
that feminine names were used as charms or equations 


in alchemy. Here the word " raffina " recalls a similar 
line in Arnaut Daniel. 

The sestet : 
" She goes her way adorned so graciously 
That pride forsakes whom she doth grace with greeting. 
Yea, he betrays our faith who creeds her not. 
No man impure may venture near to her. 
Yet would I tell you of a greater worth : 

There is no man whose evil thoughts do not cease a little while 
before she appears." 

Rossetti renders the last line beautifully : 

" No man could think base thoughts who looked on her." 

^ntfinche la vede seems to imply that her spiritual 
influence would reach somewhat beyond her visible 

The distinction may seem over-precise, but it is in 
the spirit of this period to be precise. It is to be 
remembered also that Rossetti is substituting poetry in 
one language for poetry in another, while the trans- 
lations in this book are merely exegetic. 

The following passage from one of Guinicelli's 
canzoni serves to illustrate how the Tuscan grammatical 
structure diifers from the Proven5al. The bracketed 
words are not in the original. 

" For Lo ! the star which measureth our time 
Is like that lady who hath lit my love. 
Placed in Love's heaven she is. 
And as that other {star) by countenance 
From day to day illumineth the world 
So doth she {illumine) the hearts 
Of gracious folk and all the valorous. 
With but the light which resteth in her face ; 
And each man honours her 
Seeing in her the light all perfect^ 


Which bears full virtue to the minds 

Of all, who {thereby) grow enamoured, 

And such is that one who coloureth 

The heaven with light, being guide of the true-hearted 

With a splendour which lures by its fairness." 

The directness of Proven9al song has here been lost. 
The complicated system of introactive relative clauses 
could only have been set down by a man accustomed 
not so much to hear poetry as to read it, one would say, 
in Latin. 

The subject matter of these passages from the ode 
beginning : — 

"Avvegna ched eo m' aggio plu per tempo" 
forebodes the "dolce stile" (the "the sweet style") of 

" Although long time I had cried out 
Un'vailingly for pity and for love 
Wherewith to comfort this our grievous life, 
My time's not yet outrun. 

Thus, sith my speech yet findeth not thy heart, 
I stand a-weeping with my wounded soul. 
Saying together : ' Thus was it cast in heaven.' 

' O blessed joy whereon man calleth ever, 

Oimt ! and when and how 

Shall come my power to see thee visibly ? 

So that in this present hour I might make you aid of comfort. 

Therefore hear me, for my speech pertaineth. 

And give rest to my love-wrought sighs. 

Yea, we do prove that in this blinded world 
Each one hath life of anguish and of grief. 
Fortune bedraggling man through all mischance 
Ere he win heaven wherein is perfect joy." 

The Fifth Stanza: 

" Reflect upon the pleasure, then, where dwelleth 
Thy Lady who is crowned in heaven. 
In whom doth rest your hope of Paradise ; 


{Reflect) with your every holy memory 

Contemplating a soul set in heaven. 

Your heart, which is hereby bewildered. 

Hath painted within it this so blessed face. 

Whose semblance below is as the miracle above, 

{Hatk painted within it) even more, since it is known how she 

was received by the angels ; 
This your spirits have reported, {spirits) who many a time 

make the voyage." 

(I have thought it necessary to insert in brackets the 
subjects of some of the relative pronouns.) 

" She speaks of you with the blessed. 
And says to them : ' while I was in the world 
I received honour from him, 

In so much as he praised me in his songs of praise.' 
And she prays to God, the true Signer, 
That he comfort you, as shall please you." ' 

This passage shows us two things : it shows us that 
certain conceits of Dante's earlier poetry were by no 
means original; and it shows us the dangers of 
the philosophical love song. 

Apropos of this sort of thing, Bonagiunta of Lucca 
writes to Guinicelli of Bologna : 

"You that have changed the manner and the 
pleasing songs of love, both form and substance, to 
surpass every other Troubadour . . . you surpass 
every man in subtlety ; but so obscure is your speech, 
that there is none found to explain it." 

I would further refer you to the "Early Italian 
Poets " for the translation of " Tegno di folk impresa, 
alio ver dire" ("I hold him verily of mean emprise"), 
mentioned by Dante, "De Vulgari Eloquentia," ii. 5, 

1 Rossetti attributes this to Cina da Pistoija, and is probably right ; 
in which case the quotation illustrates only one of my points. 


and for one vivid simile to the sonnet, "Concerning 

In Guinicelli we find the root of the "curial style." 
His contemporaries may for the most part be regarded 
as a continuation of the Provencal decadence, or as 
channels wherethrough the Provencal manner was 
borne into Italy. Following Guinicelli come three 
men who brought the canzone to perfection ; they are 
Guido Cavalcanti (born 1250), Dante Alighieri (b. 
1265), and Cino da Pistoija (b. 1270). With them 
must be named Fazio degli Uberti, author of the long, 
didactic, geographical " Dittatiomundi," and whose 
glorious ode, 

" lo miro i crespi e gli biondi capegli" 

has been at times attributed to Dante, and printed in 
his " Canzonieri." Uberti was born half a century 

Concerning the lesser lights of the period, Rossetti 
has written sufficiently in the "Early Italian Poets," 
noting the keen satire of Rustico di Filippo, Folgore's 
sonnets on the days and months, the poems of Lappo 
Gianni, and of other personal friends of Dante; 
likewise the sonnets of that scurrilous Cecco Angioleri 
of Siena, chief scoffer, and opponent of the courtly 
school ; he gives also translations from Jacopo, " The 
Notary " of Lentino, Guittone, Bonaggiunta, and Guido 
delle Colonne, all of whom we find mentioned by Dante 
either in his prose or in the "Commedia." The pro- 
gress of the art after Guinicelli can, however, be 
sufficiently traced through the works of Cavalcanti, 
Cino, and Dante. 

Cino is best seen in his canzone, " Of Consolation : 
To Dante upon the Death of Beatrice," and in the 
lament for Selvaggia, beginning 


" The beautiful bright hair 
That shed reflected gold 
O'er the green growths on either side the way." 

Both poems are given in Rossetti. 

The haughty and impetuous senior of the trio, Guido 
Cavalcanti, was Cino's enemy, and was friend, and later, 
enemy, of Dante. 

Dante himself never wrote lines more poignant, or 
more intensely poetic than did this Cavalcanti. The 
single line is, it is true, an insufficient test of a man's 
art, but it is a perfect test of his natural vigour, and 
of his poetic nature. 

In all poetry of the emotions I know nothing finer than 
those lines of Cavalcanti which Rossetti has rendered : 

" When with other women I behold my Love — 
Not that the rest were women to mine eyes 
Who only as her shadows seemed to move." 

His poignancy is seen in such lines as : 

" Not even enough of virtue with me stays 
To understand, ah me ! 
The flower of her exceeding purity." 

A spirit more imperious and less subtle than Dante, 
more passionate, less likely to give ear to sophistries ; 
his literary relation to Dante is not unlike Marlowe's 
to Shakespear, though such comparisons are always 
unsafe. No man has written better ballate, and his 
individuality is unquestionable ; Rossetti has translated 
the proof of this in the "Ballata, written in Exile at 
Sarzana," which begins in the translation : 

" Because I think not ever to return, 
Ballad, to Tuscany, — 
Go therefore thou for me 
Straight to my lady's face. 
Who, of her noble grace, 
Shall show thee courtesy." 


And more proof is in that sonnet where he says : 

" They worship thy face, Lady, at San Michele in Orto 
. . . where it is a refuge and comfort to sinners." 

And in the canzone to Fortune, where the rhythm 
turns as the wheel of her who saith : 

" lo son la donna che volgo la ruota 
Sono colei, che tolgo e da stato 
Ed e sempre htasmato 
A torto el modo mio da voi mortali." 

" I am the woman who turneth the wheel, 
I am who giveth and taketh away. 
And I am blamed alway 
And wrongly, for my deeds, by ye, mankind." 

How beautiful is Rossetti's ending for this stanza 
(Fortune speaking): 

" Nor say because he fell I did him wrong, 
Yet mine is a vain song. 
For truly ye may find out wisdom when 
King Arthur's resting-place is found of men." 

After a few hours with the originals, criticism 
becomes a vain thing. One says with Milton, 

" Questo e lingua di qui si vanta amore." ^ 

and makes an end, 

" Who is she coming whom all gaze upon. 
Who makes the whole air tremulous with light ? " 

" Chi e questa, che men cK ogni mm la mira 
E fa di clarita Faer tremare ? " 

Cavalcanti's words of his Lady are well applicable to 
the song of his time : 

" E mena seco Amor, siche farlare 
Nuir uom ne puote, ma ciascun sospira." 

^ " This is the language whereof Love's self makes boast." 


" And leadeth with her love so no man hath 
Power of speech, but each one sigheth." 

It was the great age of the canzone as the age of 
Shakespear was the great age of the romantic drama. 

Both Dante and Shakespear were men " born in their 
due time." 

And at this time, this age of the canzone, was the 
poetry of Christendom made perfect. 

The following unimportant sonnet, 33rd in Dante's 
"Canzonieri," will perhaps show how this time set a 
fashion of poetic speech that has since pertained with 
scant variance. 

" lo maledico U di . . . " 

" I curse the day wherein I first saw the light of your 
eyes traitorous. That moment's self is cursed wherein 
you mounted first the summit of my heart to draw thence 
out the soul. I curse the amorous file that hath polished 
ray fair speeches, and the fair colours that I have 
found through you, and set in rhyme to bring it 
to pass that the world shall henceforth for ever 
honour you. 

And I curse my hard mind that is firm to hold what 
kills me, that is, your fair culpable face wherethrough 
Love often perjures him, so that each one, who thinks 
that Fortune turns the wheel, makes mock of Love and 


The debt of the English Elizabethan poets to the 
writers of this period has never been carefully com- 
puted. It is, I think, greater than is usually supposed. 
How "Elizabethan," for instance, is this sonnet from 
Guido Orlandi to Guido Cavalcanti : 

" Whence moveth loVe and whence hath he his birth, 
What is his proper steady wherein he dwelleth, 


And is he substance, accident or memory, 

A chance of eyes, or a desire of heart ? 

And whence proceeds his madness or his state ; 

Is he a flame that goes devouring 

Or doth he nourish ? I demand you now : 

How, when and of whom maketh he him lord ? 

What thing is Love, I ask, hath he a face. 

Hath he a form by self, or others' likeness ? 

Is this love life, or is he death in truth ? 

He who doth serve him, should so know his nature. 

I ask thee, Guido, this concerning him 

Since thou art called ' accustomed ' at his court ? " 

I have, in some small measure, pointed out Dante's 
debt to Guinicelli, a debt which he openly proclaimed. 

Dante's greater poetry rises above the age, not 
because it is, line for line, better, or more essentially 
poetic, than the best of Guinicelli's or of Cavalcanti's 
verses, but because of the lofty, austere spirit moving 
behind the verse. That spirit shows itself in the first 
tangled canzone of the " Convito " ; an ode, I think, 
which shows all the faults and all the fineness of the time. 
Obscure it is surely, at first reading ; but when the sense 
and form are once comprehended its beauty is a beauty 
that never tires one. Time after time can one return 
to it, and always one's hunger for the beautiful is 

The Italian forms are not, as certain writers have 
stated, a simplification of the Proven9al forms. The 
rhyming has, it is true, been made easier, but the 
structure of the stanza is usually more complex. This 
particular canzone conforms to the rules laid down in 
" De Vulgari Eloquentia." The single stanza consists 
of three parts, the second of which must repeat the 
rhymes of the first ; the third part is free. The lines 
may be of eleven and of seven syllables. In this canzone 
only eleven-syllable lines are used. 


The number of stanzas is optional. The " coda " or 
"envoi" preferably repeats some part of the stanza 

In the later Proven9al forms the stanzas were usually, 
though not always, more simple than this, and the 
rhymes of the first stanza were usually retained through- 
out the poem ; thus each succeeding stanza was an echo 
not only of the order but of the terminal sounds of the 

An effect of one of Arnaut Daniel's canzones 
is that of a chord struck repeatedly in crescendo. The 
sound-beauty of the Italian canzone depends on the 
variation of the rhymes. 

The Provencal canzone can be understood when 
sung. I know of but few Tuscan canzone that do 
not require close study in print before they will yield 
their meaning. But after one knows the meaning, 
their exquisite sound spoken, or sung, is most enjoy- 
able. Even so, they are much less songs than their 

The following canzone is explained at length in the 
" Convito." 

It tells how Dante is led forth from his personal 
grief for the death of Beatrice into the sunlight of 
Philosophy ; that is, becomes fit for his life work, 
because of a deepened vision. It is addressed to the 
spirits, who, by understanding, rule the third heaven — 
the heaven of Love — because they alone will fully com- 
prehend it. The speakers in the poem are : A spirit, 
descending on the rays of Venus, the star ruling the 
third heaven ; a thought that goes from Dante to heaven 
and returns telling him of Beatrice, the " angiola " (little 
angel), who in heaven is crowned ; the " spiritel " ' or 
breath of noble love: and other speakers who are 
sufficiently explained in the text. 


" Can%one Prima " from " // Cmvito " 

■' Ye movilig spirits of the third high sphere, 
Hear ye this speech as in my heart it is ! 
Too strange it is to speak, save unto you. 
That heaven which followeth your potencies 
(O creatures noble as ye do appear) 
Doth form the mood which I am drawn unto, 
Wherefore this speech of life which I pass through, 
Meseems directed toward you worthily. 
And therefore do I pray ye give me heed 
While my heart speaks that which is new indeed. 
Of how, within, my soul weeps piteously 
Because a spirit borne upon the rays 
Of your high star, my soul in speech withstays. 

The life of my sad heart was wont to be 

A gracious thought which many a time went thence 

To take his place beside thy Sire's feet. 

Where looked he on her gloried countenance. 

Of whom he spoke to me so graciously, 

That my soul cried : ' My going hence is meet.' 

And now comes one who drives him in defeat. 

And lords it over me with such high power 

That, my heart's trembling is made manifest. 

To make me look on her, this is his quest. 

Who saith, ' Whoso would win salvation's dower. 

Unto this lady let him turn his eyes. 

If he may strip his fear of fearful sighs. 

The humble thought which wont to speak to me 

Of a little angel who in heaven is crowned. 

Finds here a foe, who him destroyeth straight ; 

And weeping saith my soul, in this grief bound, 

' Alas ! that now that piteous one doth flee 

Who gave me comforting until so late ! ' 

And of mine eyes he saith, disconsolate, 

' Oimi ! what hour, wherein they saw her first ! 

Why trusted they not me concerning her \ 

I ever said, within her eyes doth stir 

A power whereby my peers to death are cursed. 

What was my warning more than wasted breath, 

They would not turn from her, from whom's my death ? ' 


' Thou art not dead, thou only art dismayed, 

O soul of ours, who makest here such moan.' 

A breath of noble love replies to this, 

' For this fair lady who is here made known 

Hath on thy life such transmutation laid 

That fear comes on thee and strange cowardice. 

How humble and how pitiful she is. 

And in her grandure wise and courteous 1 

Behold, and know, and name her " Mistress " ever. 

And hence, unless thy mind from sense him sever. 

Thou shalt see glories, high, so marvelous. 

That thou shalt cry, " Love, Lord in verity. 

Behold thine handmaid ! Do what pleaseth thee [" "' 

" Canzon, I think that they shall be but few. 
Who shall draw forth thy meaning rightfully. 
So wearisome and tangled is thy speech. 
Whence, if such fortune falleth unto thee. 
That pathways of thy going shall lie through 
Minds unto whom thy meaning can not reach. 
Take thou such comfort as I here can teach : 
Greet them, my New Delight, with this address, 
' Give heed at least unto my loveliness.' " 

" Ponete mente olmen com^ to son bella." 

The cult of Provence had been a cult of the 
emotions; and with it there had been some, hardly- 
conscious, study of emotional psychology. In Tuscany 
the cult is a cult of the harmonies of the mind. If one 
is in sympathy with this form of objective imagination 
and this quality of vision, there is no poetry which has 
such enduring, such, if I may say so, indestructible charm. 

The best poetry of this time appeals by its truth, 
by its subt^, and by its refined exactness. Noffo 
Bonaguida thus expresses himself and the peculiar 
introspective tendency of his time : 

" Ispirito d^Amor con intelletto 
Dentro dallo meo cor sempre dimora, 
Chi mi mantiene in gran gioia e'n diletto 
E senza lui non viveria un' ora." 


Our whole appreciation of the time depends on 
whether we understand what is meant by the peculiar 
terms: thus in the above passage whether we mis- 
translate " intelletto " as " intellect," or render it correctly 
" intelligence," thus : 

" A spirit of love with intelligence 
Dwells ever within my heart, 
He doth maintain me in joy and great delight. 
Without him I should die within the hour." 

Faults this poetry may have ; we have already 
mentioned them at too great length ; this virtue it ever 
has, it is not rhetorical, it aims to be what it is, and 
never pretends to be something which it is not. 

Seeking, in the works of the centuries immediately 
preceding him, those elements which Dante's mag- 
nanimity has welded into the "Commedia," we find much 
of his philosophy or theology in the church fathers. 
Richard of St Victor had written a prose which becomes 
poetry, not because of its floridity, but because of its 

The technique of accented poetry had been brought 
to perfection by Daniel, Guinicelli, and Cavalcanti. 

In Rustico di Filippo we find proof that the bitter 
acid of Italian speech was not first distilled by the 

Lorris, Clopinel, and Brunetto Latini had already 
attempted long poems which were not romances or 
narratives of deed. St Francis had poured fourth his 
religious fervour in the tongue of the people. The 
means are prepared. 

Advenit Magister. 



Ignorance of most of the data of Dante's life is no 
bar to the understanding of his works. 

The life itself is, however, most interesting, and 
Paget Toynbee has in his short "Life of Dante" set 
down the main facts with such fluent conciseness, that 
the information conveyed greatly exceeds the labour of 

I have recommended few subsidiary works. I believe 
that in the study of literature one should read texts, 
not commentaries. I recommend the first 157 pages 
of this book ^ as a biographical introduction to Dante's 

Toynbee follows the sane custom of quoting contem- 
porary authorities ; Villari, etc., at reasonable length. 

In outline the facts are these : 

Dante was born in Florence in 1 265 : his father, 
Guelph, judge and notary. [Toynbee's characterisation 
of Dante's father is, I think, drawn mainly from Mr 
Toynbee's imagination, without any real warrant in 
facts ; however, the point is of no consequence ; our 
enjoyment of the "Commedia" does not depend on 
Alighiero degli Alighieri's views on Vendetta.] 
Dante's mother was of Ghibelline family. The 
Ghibelline party, ruined in the year of Dante's birth, 
stood in theory for "law, authority, the empire, and 
the older aristocracy " ; the Guelph party for the 
citizens, the Church, liberty, and Italy. 

1 Paget Toynbee, " Life of Dante." Methuen & Co. 


The " Vita Nuova," the prose of which was written 
between 1292-95, is Dante's own account of his 
youth's inner life, and we have Boccaccio and Dante's 
own son to witness that it tells of Dante's love for 
Beatrice Portinari. 

On June 11, 1289, Dante fought at Campaldino, 
"in the front rank," "no child in arms"; possibly 
among "the 150 of the best of the host," chosen by 
Aimeri of Narbonne and the other Florentine captains. 
The battle was between the Guelphs of Florence and 
the Ghibellines, who had for some years been centred 
at Arezzo. Dante saw further military service. In 
1295-6 he enrolled himself in the Guild of Physicians 
and Apothecaries, which Guild was concerned with 
the trade with the Orient, spices, drugs, pearls, jewels, 
books, and the art of painting. 

By 1298 he was married to Gemma Donati; in 
1300 he was elected to the priority of Florence, then 
torn by the Black and White factions of the Guelph 
party. For the peace of the city he exiled the leaders 
of both factions ; among them his friend, Guido Caval- 
canti, who was shortly recalled, but died of a fever 
contracted in exile. 

In 1 30 1, when Pope Boniface attempted to interfere 
in the civic affairs of Florence, Dante and certain others 
were sent as ambassadors to Rome. During their 
absence the party of the Black Guelphs (headed by 
the relations of Dante's wife) admitted into Florence 
Charles of Valois, the Pope's instrument. The Whites 
were treacherously driven out, and a decree of exile 
passed against Dante and others. 

The rest of Dante's life was passed in exile, with the 
Scaligers, the Malespini, and other noble families. He 
wandered through most of the cities of Italy ; perhaps 
even to Paris or Oxford. 


He was engaged much of the time in intriguing for 
the recall to Florence, which never came to him. His 
last hope of it was extinguished by the death of the 
Emperor Henry VII. in 1313, two years after he had 
assumed the iron crown of Milan and threatened 
Florence. The rest of Dante's life was passed in 
writing and in missions for his friends, such as the 
embassy to Venice for Guido da Polenta, whereon he 
caught his death fever in 1321. 

Toynbee's book, to which I have referred, is all the 
more remarkable for giving a lucid account of the party 
feuds in Florence : his account of Farinata degli "Uberti 
is better than the notes on Farinata in most editions of 
the " Commedia." 

As for Dante's art, which is really what concerns us, 
we find him with a finished technique at twenty : pre- 
suming the second and fourth sonnets of the "Vita 
Nuova " to have been written about that time ; and it 
is in this ivory book of his youth that one should first 
come to know him. It opens thus : 

"In that part of the book of my memory, before 
which little can be read, is found a rubric, which saith, 
' Beginneth the New Life.' Under the which rubric I 
find written the words which it is my intent to copy 
into this book, if not all, at least their meaning. 

"The heaven of light had revolved nine times in 
its orbit since my birth, when first appeared unto mine 
eyes the glorious lady of my mind, who was called 
Beatrice by many who did not really understand what 
they called her " {i.e. Beatrice, the blessed one)." 


In this fashion he begins the tale of Love the revealer, 
of Love the door and the way into the intelligence, of 
Love infinite 

" That moves the sun and all the other stars." 

The narration is simple, without glare of incident; 
the sight of Beatrice, the child, in a crimson mantle; 
the sight of Beatrice, the lady, in white ; a greeting 
given smilingly, a greeting withheld ; the death of a 
friend they had in common; the death of Folco 
Portinari, with presage of gloom impending, since the 
passing of these dim personalities in some sort fore- 
shadows the death of Beatrice herself. We find not 
the action itself, but the action reflected in the lake of 
Dante's heart; the heart, as we find it first, of one 
diffident, sensitive, bookish somewhat, a knower of 
dreams rather than a mingler among men. He is a master 
of frail harmonies almost from the beginning, in witness 
the second sonnet and the fourth : sonnets by an older 
definition and more beautiful in form than the quatorzain. 
The second begins : 

" O voi c he per la via d'Jmor passate." 
" O ye that pass along love's way." 

And the fourth : 

" Morte villana, di pieta nemica, 
Di dolor madre antica, 
Giudizio incontrastabile, gravoso, 
Poich' hai data materia al cor doglioso, 
Ond' to vado pensoso, 
Di te biasmar la lingua s' affatica." 

Which beginning Rossetti renders : 

" Death, alway cruel. Pity's foe in chief, 
Mother who brought forth grief, 


Merciless judgment and without appeal ! 
Since thou alone hast made my heart to feel 
This sadness and unweal, 
My tongue upbraideth thee without relief." 

Even Rossetti is unable to continue in the strict rime 
scheme of the original. Perhaps the first flawless 
sonnet of the "Vita Nuova" is the fifth: 

" Cavalcando Faltr'ter per un camino " 

(to be found in Rossetti's translation of "The New 
Life "). 

From this point onward the tale is of visions, and of 
Love's lordship over the singer, until with the death of 
Beatrice comes the final refinement of the song. 

Of his griefs before that time and after it, I would 
rather you read from the full text. The " Vita Nuova " 
is not a thing to be pulled apart and illustrated by 
selections. There are some thirty pages of it : songs 
and a quaint prose forming a sort of extended razzo, 
or explanation of the songs and their causes. 

One can cast no spell with disconnected bars of a 
Chopin nocturne. The "Vita Nuova," frail, delicate in 
its brief extent, would suffer too much from a like 
dissolution. The atmosphere, so much its own, so little 
belonging to anything but itself, is too much desecrated 
by a pulling awry of the matter. The whole must be 
given to those to whom Dante addresses the first 
canzone, that is to those 

" ch' avete intelktto / amore." 
(" who have intelligence of love.") 

In the tenth and eleventh sonnets we find that he 
has been reading Maximus Guido. The tenth begins : 

" Love and the noble heart are both one thing ; 
E'en thus the sage in his ' dittato ' saith." 



It is a philosophizing little sonnet of the older school. 
The eleventh also stands in accord with the tradition, 
and having little individuality, suffers little by being 
taken apart from the context. 

" Within her eyes my Lady beareth Love, 
So making noble all she looketh on. 

Where she doth pass, straight turneth everyone toward her ; 
Her greeting putteth a trembling on the heart, 
So that a man doth lower his shaken visage 
And sigheth for every fault he hath. 
And pride and anger flee before her. 
Aid me then, ladies, in her honouring ! 

All sweetness, every humble thought 

Is born within the heart of whoever hears her speak ; 

Whence is he blest who first doth look on her ; 

What thing she is when she doth faintly smile. 

Can not be said nor even held in mind. 

So new and noble a miracle it is." 

The slight though striking similarity of the eleventh 
line to the first line of a poem of Sappho's, translated 
by Catullus, is perhaps mere accident ; but the sequent 
similarity of thoughts is interesting. 

The vision of Love and the flaming heart ; of love in 
the guise of a pilgrim, and of the little cloud, cannot 
be separated from the vi^hole. One tires of Browning's 
^.\ verses on the drawing of^angel (in " One Word More "). 
Dante's prose of it (« V. N." xxxv.) may be rendered 
as follows : 

"In that day, fulfilling the year wherein this lady 
was made citizen of the life eternal, I was sitting in a 
place, wherein remembering her, I was designing an 
angel upon certain tablets, and while I was at the 
drawing I turned my eyes and saw beside me men 
whom it was befitting to honour. They watched what 
I was making, and afterwards it was told me that they 


had been there some while without my being aware of 
it. Seeing them, I arose and said to them in greeting : 
' Another was with me, whence my thought. ' 

" When they were gone, I turned to my work, that 
is, the drawing of an angel's face, and doing this there 
came to me the thought of setting certain words in 
rime, as for annual of her. Then spoke I the sonnet, 
' Era Venuta: " 

It is nothing short of crime to break the second and 
third canzoni, but the following passages must needs 
send anyone who reads them to the complete text. 

Canzone II 

" A very pitiful lady, very young, 
Exceeding rich in human sympathies. 
Stood by what time I clamoured upon death. 
And at the wild words wandering on my tongue. 
And at the piteous look within mine eyes. 
She was affrighted, . . ." 

(Of the visions of that troubled sleep of his, the 
later stanza) : 

" Then saw I many broken hinted sights. 
In the uncertain state I stepped into 
Me seemed to be I know not in what place. 
Where ladies through the streets, like mournful lights. 
Ran with loose hair, and eyes that frighten'd you 
By their own terror, and a pale amaze : 
The while, little by little, as I thought, 
The sun ceased, and the stars began to gather, 
And each wept at the other ; 
And birds dropp'd in mid-flight out of the sky ; 
And earth shook suddenly ; 
And I was 'ware of one, hoarse and tired out. 
Who ask'd of me : ' Hast thou not heard it said ? . . . 
Thy lady, she that was so fair, is dead.' " 


The third canzone mourns likewise : 

"That she hath gone to Heaven suddenly, 
And hath left love belov;^ to mourn vifith me. 

Beatrice is gone up into high Heaven, 

The kingdom where the angels are at peace : 

And lives with them ; and to her friends is dead. 

Not by the frost of winter was she driven 

Away, like others ; nor by summer heats ; 

But through a perfect gentleness, instead. 

For from the lamp of her meek lowlihead 

Such an exceeding glory went up hence 

That it woke wonder in the Eternal Sire, 

Until a sweet desire 

Enter'd Him for that lovely excellence. 

So that He bade her to Himself aspire ; 

Counting this weary and most evil place 

Unworthy of a thing so full of grace." 

The conclusion of the " Vita Nuova," which is also 
the prologue to the " Commedia," runs thus (Rossettfs 
Version) : 

"About this time, it happened that a great number 
of persons undertook a pilgrimage, to the end that 
they might behold that blessed portraiture bequeathed 
unto us by our Lord Jesus Christ as the image of his 
beautiful countenance (upon which countenance my dear 
lady now looketh continually). And certain among 
these pilgrims, who seemed very thoughtful, passed 
by a path which is well-nigh in the midst of the 
city where my most gracious lady was born, and abode, 
and at last died. 

"Then I, beholding them, said within myself: These 
pilgrims seem to be come from very far ; and I think 
they can not have heard speak of this lady, or known 
anything concerning her. Their thoughts are not of 


her, but of other things ; it may be, of their friends 
who are far distant, and whom we, in our turn, know 
not. . . . And when the last of them had gone by 
me, I bethought me to write a sonnet, showing forth 
mine inward speech. . . . And I wrote this sonnet : 

" Ye pilgrim folk advancing pensively 
As if in thought of distant things, I pray, 
Is your own land indeed so far away 
As by your aspect it would seem to be, — 
That nothing of our grief comes over ye 
Though passing through the mournful town midway ; 
Like unto men that understand to-day 
Nothing at all of her great misery ? 
Yet if ye will but stay, whom I accost. 
And listen to my words a little space. 
At going ye shall mourn with a loud voice. 
It is her Beatrice that she hath lost ; 
Of whom the least word spoken holds such grace 
That men weep hearing it, and have no choice." 

"And I . . . resolved that I would write also a new 
thing, . . . therefore I made this sonnet, which 
narrates my condition, . . . 

" Beyond the sphere which spreads to widest space 
Now soars the sigh that my heart sends above : 
A new perception born of grieving love 
Guideth it upward through the untrodden ways. 
When it hath reach'd the end, and stays. 
It sees a lady round whom splendours move 
In homage ; till, by the great light thereof 
Abash'd, the pilgrim spirit stands at gaze. 
It sees her such, that when it tells me this 
Which it hath seen, I understand it not. 
It hath a speech so subtle and so fine. 
And yet I know its voice within my thought 
Often remembereth me of Beatrice : 
So that I understand it, ladies mine." 


" After writing this sonnet, it was given unto me to 
behold a very wonderful vision ; wherein I saw things 
which determined me that I would say nothing further 
of this most blessed one, until such time as I could 
discourse more worthily concerning her. And to this 
end I labour all I can, as she well knoweth. Where- 
fore if it be His pleasure through whom is the life of 
all things, that my hfe continue with me a few years, 
it is my hope that I shall yet write concerning her what 
hath not before been written of any woman. After the 
which, may it seem good unto Him who is the Master 
of Grace, that my- spirit should go hence to behold the 
glory of its lady, to wit, of that blessed Beatrice who 
now gazeth continually on His countenance, qui est per 
-omnia scecula benedictus. Laus Deo." 

Thus ends the ivory book, the "little maid " he sent 
to Ser Brunetto. 

Saving the grace of a greatly honoured scholar, to speak 
of the "VitiNuova" as "embroidered with conceits" 
is arrant nonsense. The " Vita Nuova " is strangely un- 
adorned; more especially is this evident if it be com- 
pared with work of its own date. It is without strange, 
strained similes. 

Anyone who has in any degree the faculty of vision 
will know that the so-called personifications are real 
and not artificial. Dante's precision both in the " Vita 
Nuova " and in the " Commedia " comes from the attempt 
to reproduce exactly the thing which has been clearly 
seen. The " Lord of terrible aspect " is no abstraction, 
no figure of speech. There are some who can not or 
will not understand these things. For such let Dante's 
own words suffice. They are to be found in one of 
those passages of explanation which must have seemed 
to the author so prolix, so unnecessary. Thus : 


"Nevertheless, he who is not of wit sufficient to 
understand it (Canzone prima) by these (explantions) 
which have already been made, is welcome to leave it 

That the " Vita Nuova " is the idealization of a real 
woman can be doubted by no one who has, even in the 
least degree, that sort of intelligence whereby it was 
written, or who has known in any degree the passion 
whereof it treats. 

Out of the wonderful vision mentioned in the last 
passage quoted sprang the " Commedia " ; and it is to this 
passage that Cino da Pistoija refers in that sonnet 

" Sing on till thou redeem thy plighted word," 

a sonnet probably written after " The Inferno " had been 
begun, and sent to the exiled Dante, who had ceased 
from his making. 


The " Commedia," as Dante has explained in the 
Epistle to Can Grande, is written in four senses : the 
literal, the allegorical, the anagogical, and the ethical 
For this form of arcana we find the best parallel in the 
expressions of mathematics. Thus, when our mathe 
matical understanding is able to see that one general 
law governs such a series of equations as 3x3 + 4x4 
= 5 X 5, or written more simply, 3^ + 4^ = 5^, 6^+8^ = 
lo^, 12^ + 16^ = 20'^, etc., one expresses the common 
relation algebraically thus, a^ + b^ = cK When one has 
learned common and analytical geometry, one under- 
stands that this relation, a^xd^-=c^, exists between two 
sides of the right angle triangle and its hypotenuse, 
and that likewise in analytics it gives the equation 


for the points forming the circumference of any 

circle. Thus to the trained mathematician the cryptic 

«2 + 32 ^ ^2 expresses : 

ysi. A series of abstract numbers in a certain relation 

to each other. 

2nd. A relation between certain abstract numbers. 
^rd. The relative dimensions of a figure ; in this case 

a triangle. 

/\.tk. The idea or ideal of the circle. 
Thus the "Commedia" is, in the literal sense, a descrip- 
tion of Dante's vision of a journey through the realms 
inhabited by the spirits of men after death; in a 
further sense it is the journey of Dante's intelligence 
through the states of mind wherein dwell all sorts and 
conditions of men before death ; beyond this, Dante or 
Dante's intelligence may come to mean "Everyman" or 
"Mankind," whereat his journey becomes a symbol of 
mankind's struggle upward out of ignorance into the 
clear light of philosophy. In the second sense I give 
here, the journey is Dante's own mental and spiritual 
development. In a fourth sense, the " Commedia " is an 
expression of the laws of eternal justice; ";7 contra- 
passo" the counterpass, as Bertran calls it (" Inf." xxiv.), 
or the law of Karma, if we are to use an Oriental 

Every great work of art owes its greatness to some 
such complexity. Thus " Hamlet " is a great play, not 
because it narrates the misventures of a certain intro- 
spective young prince of Denmark, but because every 
man reading it finds something of himself in Hamlet. 
The play is also an enunciation to the effect that a 
man's thoughts or dreams 

" Come between him and the deed of his hand, 
Come between him and the hope of his heart." 


There is little doubt that Dante conceived the real 
Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise as states, and not places. 
Richard St Victor had, somewhile before, voiced this 
belief, and it is, moreover, a part of the esoteric and 
mystic dogma. For the purposes of art and popular 
religion it is more convenient to deal with such matters 
objectively ; this also was most natural in an age wherein 
it was the poetic convention to personify abstractions, 
thoughts, and the spirits of the eyes and senses, and 
indeed nearly everything that could be regarded as 
an object, an essence, or a quality. It is therefore 
expedient in reading the " Commedia " to regard Dante's 
descriptions of the actions and conditions of the shades as 
descriptions of men's mental states in life, in which they 
are, after death, compelled to continue : that is to say, 
men's inner selves stand visibly before the eyes of 
Dante's intellect, which is guided by classic learning, 
mystic theology, and the beneficent powers. 

The journey of the vision begins in a thick forest 
midway along life's road, whence Dante, in fear of 
certain symbolical beasts, is led by Virgil through and 
out of Hell, and to the summit of Purgatory, where 
another guide awaits to accompany him out through 
the concentric spheres of the heavens into unbounded 
heaven above them. 

One hears far too much about Dante's Hell, and far 
too little about the poetry of the "Purgatorio" and 
" Paradiso " ; though Dante has warned his readers in 
the ninth line of the first canto, that the Hell is but 
the prelude : 

" But to tell of the good which I found, I will speak 
also of the other things." 

" Ma per trattar del ben ch'io vi trovoi, 
Diro delP dtre cose cK'to v'ho scorte." 


In the construction of the great symphony the first 
movement is sombre, only to make the last by contrast 
more luminous. 

Guided by Virgil, Dante begins his descent into the 
conical pit, through ever-narrowing circles, and air ever 
more black and more tempestuous. 
/ Hell is the state of man dominated by his passions ; 

who has lost " the good of the intelligence " — " che 
hanno perduto il ben del intelleto." 

First we come beneath the starless air to those 
dreary ones that lacked energy to sin or to do good ; 
neither fit for hell nor heaven. 

Next, to the ferry of Charon, where, " as the leaves 
of autumn fall one after one until the bough sees 
all its pageantry upon the earth, even so the evil seed 
of Adam cast themselves from the shore," into the 
barge of the red-eyed Charon. 

Across the " livid marsh " Dante is taken in a swoon, 
into the place, "not sad with torments, but with 
shadows only," and here he meets the four other 
great poets, as his time knew them — Sovran Homer, 
Horace the satirist, Ovid and Lucan, who greet him 
and return with him and Virgil into the noble castle, 
"to the meadows of fresh verdure." It is the Hellenic 
Elysium, and in his description of it, Dante, I think, 
displays a certain quality of calm power, usually denied 
to all authors save the Greek. 

Drawing to one side, " into a place, open, luminous, 
and high," whence he could see all these "with slow 
eyes and grave, and of great authority in their sem- 
blance, speaking seldom, and with quiet {soave) voices " : 
great spirits whom he gloried within him to have seen : 
"Elektra, Hector and Aeneas, and Caesar with his 
falcon eyes ; Penthesilea, and Brutus, that drove forth 
Tarquin ; Camilla and Martia," and " by himself apart," 


the Saladin; and higher, "the master of those that 
know,"^ holding his Olympian Court with Plato and 
Socrates, Thales, and the rest. 

Then the four poets leave Dante alone with Virgil, 
and "out from the calm air" they move "into the 
air which trembleth," "to a place where nothing 

Minos, "knower of sins," reigns over it, and judges. 
In the "dolorous hospice," "where all light is mute, 
there is a bellowing as of the sea in tempest, of a 
storm that never rests." Whirling and smiting, the 
infernal wind beats here upon the spirits of those who 
were ruled by their own passions ; and as cranes go 
chanting their lays in a line long drawn through the 
air, so come these wailing ghosts, 

" Ombre portate della delta briga." 
" As shadows borne upon th' aforesaid strife." 

And here (Canto v.) Francesca da Rimini, one of the 
pair "that seemed so light upon the wind," *■' E paion si 
al vento esser leggieri" "as one that speaks and 
weepeth," tells her tale of how there, "where the Po 
descendeth to be at peace with his attendant streams," 
"Love that the noble heart doth quickly learn, had 
joined her to one who leaves her never." 

From the miraculous fifth canto the vision leads into 
new torments, through the circles of the gluttonous, and 
the avaricious, and the prodigal ; to the wrathful and the 
sullen, buried in the ooze of their suUenness. Over 
their pool Dante and Virgil come to the city of 
Dis, livid, with walls of seeming iron; place of the 
fallen angels, basso inferno; place of the blood-stained 
Erynnis, girt with greenest hydras, coifed with serpents 
and cerastes. The prsefects of the city refuse to open 

1 Aristotle. 


to the poets, but their " fatal going " {fatal andare) is 
not to be impeded. 

"And now there came, upon the turbid waves, a crash of 
fearful sound, at which the shores both trembled ; 

a sound as of a wind, impetuous for the adverse heats, 
which smites the forest without any stay ; 

shatters off the boughs, beats down, and sweeps away ; 
dusty in front, it goes superb, and makes the wild 
beasts and the shepherds flee. 

He loosed my eyes, and said : ' Now turn thy nerve of 
vision on that ancient foam, there where the smoke 
is harshest.' 

As frogs, before their enemy the serpent, run all 
asunder through the water, till each squats upon 
the bottom : 

so I saw more than a thousand ruined spirits flee before 
one, who passed the Stygian ferry with soles unwet." 
("Inf," Canto ix. 64-82.) 
The poets enter the city of Dis, of which Dante 
writes (Canto ix. 106-133): 

" We entered into it without any strife ; and I, who 
was desirous to behold the condition which such a 
fortress encloses, 

as soon as I was in, sent my eyes around; and saw, on 
either hand, a spacious plain full of sorrow and of 
evil torment. 

As at Aries, where the Rhone pools itself, as at Pola 
near the Quarnaro gulf which shuts up Italy and 
bathes its confines, 

the sepulchres make all the place uneven : so did they 
here on every side, only the manner here was more 
bitter : 


for amongst the tombs were scattered flames, whereby 
,they were made all over so glowing-hot, that iron 
more so no craft requires. 

Their covers were all raised up ; and out of them pro- 
ceeded moans so grievous, that they seemed indeed 
the moans of spirits sad and wounded. 

And I: 'Master, what are these people who, buried 
within those chests, make themselves heard by their 
painful sighs ? ' 

And he to me : ' [Here] are the Arch-heretics with their 
followers of every sect ; and much more, than thou 
thinkest, the tombs are laden. 

Like with like is buried here ; and the monuments are 
more and less hot.' Then, after turning to the right 
hand, we passed between the tortures and the high 

Out of one of these fiery coffers there arises the 
most imperious figure of the "Commedia": Farinata 
deglL-Hberti, agnostic, he who, after the battle of 
Arbia, had saved the city of Florence from destruction 
at the hands of the Ghibelline Council, after their 
victory. Here he says: "But I was the sole one there 
who, when all consented to destroy Florence, defended 
her with open face." 

Scornful, as if " he held hell in great disdain," 

" Come avesse lo inferno in gran dispitto," 

he rises from his torture to a combat of wits with his 
political enemy. 

Past him and his tomb-mate, Guido Cavalcantis' 
father, our poets descend to the thicker stench of that 
part of hell reserved for the violent against themselves, 
against God, and against their neighbours; for bias- 


phemers against God, and despisers of nature's bounty : 
for the practisers of fraud against those who have had, 
and against those who have not had confidence in them ; 
until at the narrow base of hell we find Judas, Brutus, 
and Cassius eternally embedded in the ice, which is the 
symbol of the treacherous heart. 

The terrible pageant rolling on beneath the reek of the 
lurid air, over rivers of blood, guarded by monsters from 
the classic mythology, is, in its conscious symbolism, the 
mediaeval world, blind with its ignorance, its violence, 
and its filth. 

Browning is perhaps the only widely read modern 
who has realized this phase of the Middle Ages, and 
he has hidden his knowledge in an unread poem, 
" Sordello." 

The vigour of Browning's touch approaches the 
Florentine's in one passage at least, of Cino at the 
fountain, in the poem "Sordello": 

" 'A sort of Guelf folk gazed 
And laughed apart ; Cino disliked their air — 
Must pluck up spirit, show he does not care — 
Seats himself on the tank's edge — will begin 
To hum, %a, %a, Cavaler Ecclin — 
A silence ; he gets warmer, clinks to chime. 
Now both feet plough the ground, deeper each time, 
At last, %a, za, and up with a fierce kick 
Comes his own mother's face, caught by the thick 
Grey hair about his spur ! ' 

Which means, they lift 
The covering, Salinguerra made a shift 
To stretch upon the truth ; as well avoid 
Further disclosures ; leave them thus employed." 

Piere Cardinal's fable of the same man in the city 
gone mad is a weaker equation for what Dante pre- 
sents as a living man amongst the dead. 

I have followed convention in noting Farinata ; under 


the rain of dilated flakes of fire we find Caponaeus, a 
like figure, unrelenting in his defiance of the supreme 
power (Canto xiv. 50) : 

" What I was living that am I dead 
Though Jove outvyeary his smith." 

In Canto xv. we find Brunetto Latini still anxious 
for the literary immortality of his " Tesoro." 

Canto xvii. opens with this description of Geryon, 
symbol of fraud : 

" Ecco lajiera con la coda aguzza 
Che passa i monti, e rompe muri e CarmtP 

" ' Behold the wild brute with sharpened tail that 
passeth mountains and breaks walls and arms. Behold 
the one that fouleth all the world.' Thus began my 
guide to speak to me, and beckoned to the beast to 
come to shore, near to the end of the rocky defile. 
And that uncleanly image of fraud came on, and landed 
with head and breast. But drew not its tail upon 
the bank. The face was the face of a just man, so 
benign was the outer skin ; and the rest was all a 
serpent's body. Two paws had he hairy to the arm- 
pits ; the back and the breast and both the flanks he 
had mottled with knobs and circlets. 

" Never did Tartars or Turks weave cloth with more 
colours and broidery, nor were such webs laid by 

"As at times wherries lie ashore, that are part in 
water and part on land ; and as there amongst the 
guzzling Germans (Tedeschi lurchi\ the beaver adjusts 
himself to wage his war : so lay that worst of savage 
beasts upon the brim." 

Upon this beast they descend into the lower pit, 
Malebolge, which contains the violent against art, and 


the usurers. In this Canto we find the " unearned 
increment " attacked. 

The vividness of Dante's description of the descent 
on the back of the monster may be judged from 
these lines : 

"He goes swimming slowly, slowly, wheels and 
descends; but I perceive it not, save by a wind upon 
my face and from below." 

Malebolge is a series of concentric pits, the whole 
shaped somewhat like a half-opened telescope. Through 
the "Inferno" there is a biting satire on the aimless turmoil 
and restlessness of humanity, beginning with the motion 
of the wind which bears Paolo and Francesca, con- 
tinuing through the portrayal of the devil-driven 
pandars in Malebolge, only at the very root of hell do 
we find the end of it, in the still malignity of the 
traitor's wallow. 

Canto xix. is devoted to the siraonists; here Dante 
finds Nicholas III., to whom : 

" O whoe'er thou art that hast thy upper part under- 
most, wretched spirit, planted like a stake," I began, 
" if thou art able, speak ! " 

I stood like a friar who is confessing a perfidious 
assassin, who, after being planted, is thus recalled, and 
has his death delayed. 

And he cried out: "Art thou already standing, 
Boniface .'' (j.e. Pope Boniface VIII.). Art thou 
already on end, Boniface? The script has lied to 
me by several years." 

Dante also anticipates the descent of Clement V. to 
the same department, and inveighs against simony. 
There is a similar boldness shown by Guido Reni in 
his picture of St Michael and the devil, where the 
devil's face is that of the Pope. In the further lines 


(12 1- 1 24) we have hidden much of the spirit of the 
renaissance. Dante here represents intelligence and 
truth, and Virgil the honesty of pagan philosophy ; at 
the end of Dante's invective he says of Virgil : 

" I beheve, indeed, that it pleased my guide, with 
such contented lips did he attend to the sound of the 
words truly spoken." 

It is said that Rabelais hid his wisdom in a mass of 
filth in order that it might be acceptable to his age ; 
how much better a hiding is this of Dante's, who, 
with the approval of pagan enlightenment, rebukes the 
corruption of the church temporal, not in such a manner 
as to stir up the rabble, but so that it will be perceptible 
to the thoughtful. 

There is a fine bit of stoic philosophy in the next 
Canto (xx.), when Dante weeps in pity for the 
sorcerers and diviners. Virgil says to him : 

"Art thou, too, like the other fools? Here liveth 
pity when it is well dead. Who is more impious than 
he who sorrows at divine judgment? " 

Those punished here have their heads set on back- 
wards, or in Dante's terse phrase : 

"made breasts of their shoulders because they wished 
to see too far before them." 

Dante's love of beauty draws it after him into hell 
itself, so here, with skill, he relieves the gloom of the 
canto by retrospection (lines 46-51). 

"That is Aruns, who hath his belly behind him, he 
who, in the mountains of Luni, where hoes the Carrarese 
who dwells below, had his grotto amidst the white 
marbles and dwelt therein, aijd thence with unobstructed 
sight looked forth upon the stars and on the sea." 

In the next cantos are scourged sins and the cities 


noted for them. Thus the barrators are " the elders 
of San Zita" (patron saint of Lucca). In xxi. 7-18, 
is this simile so apt in its suggestion, of things marine. 

"As in the Venetians' arsenal boils the sticky pitch, 
for the caulking of damaged keels unnavigable, in which, 
to save rebuilding, they plug the ribs so that they hold 
for many a voyage ; while some hammer at the prow, 
some at the stern ; some make oars, others twine ropes, 
and mend the jib or mainsail, so, not by fire but by 
divine means, there is boiled down there a thick tar 
which glues the bank in every place." 

Here are the barrators, the simile may seem over- 
long,, but it also conveys that air of unrest, here the 
racket of the ship-yard. 

There is grim humour through these canti. Bologna 
is gibed for Pandars, as Lucca for Barrators. Through 
it all moves Dante (a more impersonal figure than he is 
usually accounted), with his clear perception of evil and 
of pompous stupidity; and his skill in giving "relief" 
from the mood of the "Inferno," once as lay the memory 
of Aruns' cave, next by the clearly comic touch of 
the infernal corporal, lord over four under-devils, who 
is the equivalent of the operatic " super " with a spear. 

We lose a great deal if we leave our sense of irony 
behind us when we enter the dolorous ports of Dante's 
"Hell." For sheer dreariness one reads Henry James, 
not the "Inferno." 

In the circle below the barrators go the hypocrites 
clothed in great gilded mantles which are lined 
with lead; they go the "painted people" weighed 
down with splendid appearances; Caiaphas and Fra 

Canto xxiv. opens with the long simile of the 
peasant coming to his door. 


" When the hoar-frost paints her white sister's image 
on the ground." 

This canto is of the thieves tormented by serpents, 
and Dante's sting is for Pistoija. 
In xxvi. Florence is under the lash : 

" Gotii, Fiorenza, pot che set si grande 
che per mare e per terra batti ^ali 
e per P inferno il tuo nome si spande." 

" Exult, O Florence, that art grown so grand, 
that over sea and land dost beat thy wings, 
e'en through th' inferno doth thy name expand." 

Then, as the peasant who at the sun's hiding sees 
his valley filled with fire-flies, so Dante, looking down 
across this "^o/|-e," this hell-ditch, sees approaching that 
multitude of flames which involves each one, one evil 

The punishment of the sowers of discord I have men- 
tioned in the paragraphs on Bertrans de Born. Below 
them are the rebellious giants, and lastly the traitors in the 
circle of ice, and with them the " emperor of the dolorous 
realm" tri-faced, the very core of hell. Clambering 
over his shaggy bulk, Dante and Virgil enter the 
camino ascoso^ the hidden road, and by this ascent issue 
forth to see again the stars. 

"^ quindi usciamo a riveder le stelle." 


To course o'er better waters now hoists sail the little 
bark of my wit, leaving behind her so cruel a sea. 

And I will sing of that second realm, where the human 
spirit is purged, and becomes worthy to ascend to 


But here let dead poesy arise again, O holy muses, since 
yours am I ; and here let Calliope arise somewhat, 

accompanying my song with that strain whose stroke 
the wretched Pies felt so that they despaired of 

The sweet colour of oriental sapphire which was gather- 
ing on the serene aspect of the pure air even to 
the first circle, 

to mine eyes restored delight, as soon as I issued forth 

from the dead air, which had afflicted eyes and 

The fair planet which hearteneth to love was making 

the whole East to laugh, veiling the Fishes that 

were in her train. 

So opens the second great division of the "Commedia." 
Cato challenges their progress, then follows the descrip- 
tion of the angelic steersman (ii. 10-45). 

We were alongside the ocean yet, like folk who ponder 

o'er their road, who in heart do go and in body 

and, as on the approach of morn, through the dense 

mists Mars burns red, low in the West o'er the 

ocean-floor ; 

such to me appeared — so may I see it again ! — a light 
coming o'er the sea so swiftly, that no flight is 
equal to its motion ; 

from which, when I had a while withdrawn mine eyes 
to question my Leader, I saw it brighter and 
larger grown. 

Then on each side of it appeared to me something 
white ; and from beneath it, little by little, another 
whiteness came forth. 


My Master yet did speak no word, until the first white- 
ness appeared as wings ; then, when well he knew 
the pilot, 

he cried: "Bend, bend thy knees; behold the Angel 
of God : fold thy hands : henceforth shalt thou 
see such ministers. 

Look how he scorns all human instruments, so that oar 
he wills not, nor other sail than his wings, between 
shores so distant. 

See how he has them heavenward turned, plying the 
air with eternal plumes, that are not moulted like 
mortal feathers." 

Then as more and more towards us came the bird 
divine, brighter yet he appeared, wherefore mine 
eye endured him not near : 

but I bent it down, and he came on to the shore with 
a vessel so swift and light that the waters nowise 
drew it in. 

On the stern stood the celestial pilot, such, that blessed- 
ness seemed writ upon him, and more than a 
hundred spirits sat within. 

Among the souls is Casella, musician of Florence, 
who explains how the souls are conveyed to the Holy 
Mount, from that " shore where the Tiber's waves turn 
salt," he sings for memory's sake, creating yet another 
memory. '■'•Amor che nella mente mi ragiona" ; the 
Dantescan ode for which presumably, in the time of 
their early friendship, he had made the "Son" or tune. 

Ascending the hard way, Manfred is met among the 
excommunicate ; Belacqua among the late repentant, 
and among the late repentant violently slain, Buonconte 
and others; beyond them is the valley of Princes, 


where Is found Sordello, the day ends : " Te lucis 
ante'" is sung: Two angels descend ("Purg." viii. 

" Green, as tender leaves just born, was their raiment, 
which they trailed behind, fanned and smitten by green 

Sordello continues his explanation of the place, and 
the ante-purgatory. Canto ix., brings us to the gate of 
Purgatory proper. The seven terraces for the purgation 
of Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Avarice and Prodigality, 
Gluttony and Lust are guarded at their entrances by 
the angels of the antithetic virtues ; above them is the 
earthly Paradise. 

It is possible that the figures in the "Purgatorio" are 
less vigorous than those in the "Inferno," and that Dante, 
in this middle realm, permits himself too much luxury 
of explanation. For the mystic, the "Paradiso" over- 
whelms it. For the lover of poetry, however, the last 
six canti, describing the Earthly Paradise, make the 
second book not the least of the three. I do not wish 
to slight the preceding canti, but they are over- 
shadowed by the magnificence of a conclusion which 
it is almost impossible to convey, except by quoting 
in full. 

Canto xxviii. 

Now eager to search within and around the divine 
forest dense and verdant, which to mine eyes was 
tempering the new day, 

without waiting more I left the mountain-side, crossing 
the plain with lingering step, over the ground 
which gives forth fragrance on every side. 

A sweet air, itself invariable, was striking on my 
brow with no greater force than a gentle wind, 


before which the branches, responsively trembling, were 
all bending towards that quarter, where the holy 
mount casts its first shadow : 

yet not so far bent aside from their erect state, that 
the little birds in the tops ceased to practise their 
every art ; 

but, singing, with full gladness they welcomed the first 
breezes within the leaves, which were murmuring 
the burden to their songs ; 

even such as from bough to bough is gathered through 
the pine wood on Chiassi's shore, when Aeolus 
looses Sirocco forth. 

Already my slow steps had carried me on so far within 
the ancient wood, that I could not see whence I 
had entered ; 

and lo, a stream took from me further passage which, 
toward the left with its little waves, bent the grass 
which sprang forth on its bank. 

All the waters which here are purest, would seem to 
have some mixture in them, compared with that, 
which hideth nought ; 

albeit full darkly it flows beneath the everlasting shade, 
which never lets sun, nor moon, beam there. 

With feet I halted and with mine eyes did pass beyond 
the rivulet, to gaze upon the great diversity of 
the tender blossoms ; 

and there to me appeared, even as on a sudden some- 
thing appears which, through amazement, sets all 
other thought astray, 

a lady solitary, who went along singing, and culling 
flower after flower, wherewith all her path was 


" Pray, fair lady, who at love's beams dost warm thee, 
if I may believe outward looks, which are wont to 
be a witness of the heart, 

may it please thee to draw forward," said I to her» 
" towards this stream, so far that I may understand 
what thou singest. 

Thou makest me to remember, where and what Pros- 
erpine was in the time her mother lost her, and 
she the spring." 

As a lady who is dancing turns her round with feet 
close to the ground and to each other, and hardly 
putteth foot before foot, 

she turned toward me upon the red and upon the 
yellow flowerets, not otherwise than a virgin that 
droppeth her modest eyes ; 

and made my prayer satisfied, drawing so near that the 
sweet sound reached me with its meaning. 

Soon as she was there, where the grass is already 
bathed by the waves of the fair river, she vouch- 
safed to raise her eyes to me. 

I do not believe that so bright a light shone forth under 
the eyelids of Venus, pierced by her son, against 
all his wont. 

She smiled from the right bank opposite, gathering 
more flowers with her hands, which the high land 
bears without seed. 

Three paces the river kept us distant ; but Hellespont, 
where Xerxes crossed, to this day a curb to all 
human pride, 

endured not more hatred from Leander for its turbulent 
waves 'twixt Sestos and Abydos, than that did 
from me, because it opened not then. 


" New-comers are ye," she began, " and perchance, 
because I am smiling in this place, chosen for nest 
of the human race, 

some doubt doth hold you marvelling ; but the psalm 
Delectasti giveth light which may clear the mist 
from your understanding. 

And thou, who art in front, and didst entreat me, say 
if aught else thou wouldst hear : for I came ready 
to all thy questioning till thou be satisfied," 

"The water," quoth I, "and the woodland murmuring 
drive in upon me new faith concerning a thing 
which I have heard contrary to this." 

Wherefore she: "I will tell from what cause that 
arises which makes thee marvel, and I will purge 
away the mist that offends thee. 

The highest Good, who himself alone doth please, made 
man good and for goodness, and gave this place to 
him as an earnest of eternal peace. 

Through his default, small time he sojourned here ; 
through his default, for tears and sweat he ex- 
changed honest laughter and sweet play. 

In order that the storms, which the exhalations of the 

water and of the earth cause below it, and which 

follow so far as they can after the heat, 
should do no hurt to man, this mount rose thus far 

towards heaven, and stands clear of them from 

where it is locked. 
Now since the whole of the air revolves in a circle 

with the primal motion, unless its circuit is broken 

in some direction, 
such motion strikes on this eminence, which is all free 

in the pure air, and makes the wopd to sound 

because it is dense ; 


and the smitten plant has such power that with its 
virtue it impregnates the air, which in its revolu- 
tion then scatters it abroad : 

and the other land, according as it is worthy of itself 
and of its climate, conceives and brings forth divers 
trees of divers virtues. 

Were this understood, it would not then seem a marvel 
yonder, when some plant takes root there without 
manifest seed. 

And thou must know that the holy plain where thou 
art, is full of every seed, and bears fruit in it 
which yonder is not plucked. 

The water which thou seest wells not from a spring 
that is fed by moisture which cold condenses, like 
a river that gains and loses volume, 

but issues from a fount, constant and sure, which regains 
by God's will, so much as it pours forth freely on 
either side. 

On this side it descends with a virtue which takes from 
men the memory of sin ; on the other it restores 
the memory of every good deed. 

On this side Lethe, as on the other Eunoe, 'tis called, 
and works not except first it is tasted on this side 
and on that. 

This exceedeth all other savours ; and albeit thy thirst may 
be full sated, even tho' I reveal no more to thee. 

I will give thee yet a corollary as a grace ; nor do I 
think that my words will be less precious to thee 
if they extend beyond my promise to thee. 

They who in olden times sang of the golden age and 
its happy state, perchance dreamed in Parnassus of 
this place. 


Here the root of man's race was innocent ; here spring 
is everlasting, and every kind of fruit ; this is the 
nectar whereof each one tells. 

Then did I turn me right back to my poets,i and saw 
that with smiles they had heard the last interpre- 
tation ; then to the fair Lady I turned my face. 

Canto xxix. 

At the end of her words, singing like an enamoured lady, 
she continued : " Beati^ quorum tecta sunt ■peccataH'' 

And, as nymphs who used to wend alone through the 

woodland shades, one desiring to see, another to 

flee the sun, 
she then advanced against the stream, walking on the 

bank, and 1 abreast of her, little step answering 

with little step. 
Not a hundred were her steps with mine, when both 

banks alike made a bend, in such wise that I 

turned me to the east. 
Nor yet was our way thus very far, when the lady 

turned her full round to me, saying, "Brother 

mine, look and hearken." 
And lo, a sudden brightness flooded on all sides the 

great forest, such that it set me in doubt if 'twere 

But since lightning ceases even as it cometh, and that 

enduring, brighter and brighter shone, in my mind 

I said : " What thing is this ? " 
And a sweet melody ran through the luminous air; 

wherefore righteous zeal made me reprove Eve's 


^ Statius has joined Virgil and Dante. 


who, there where heaven and earth obeyed, a woman 
alone and but then formed, did not bear to remain 
under any veil. 

under which, if she had been devout, I should have 
tasted those ineffable joys ere this, and for a 
longer time. 

While I was going amid so many first-fruits of the 
eternal pleasance, all enrapt and still yearning for 
more joys, 

the air in front of us under the green boughs, became 

even as a flaming fire to us, and the sweet sound 

was heard as a chant. 
O holy, holy, Virgins, if e'er for you I have endured 

fastings, cold, or vigils, occasion spurs me to crave 

my reward. 

Now 'tis meet that Helicon for me stream forth and 

Urania aid me with her choir to set in verse things 

hard to conceive. 
A little farther on, a delusive semblance of seven trees 

of gold was caused by the long space that was yet 

between us and them ; 
but when I had drawn so nigh to them that the general 

similitude of things, which deceives the senses, lost 

not by distance any of its features, 

the faculty which prepares material for reason distin- 
guished them as candlesticks, even as they were, 
and in the words of the chant, " Hosannah." 

Above, the fair pageant was flaming forth, brighter far 
than the moon in clear midnight sky in her mid 

Full of wonderment I turned me to the good Virgil, 
and he answered me with a face not less charged 
with amazement. 


Then I turned my countenance back to the sublime 
things, which moved towards us so slowly, that 
they would be vanquished by new-wedded brides. 

The lady cried to me: "Wherefore art thou so ardent 
only for the vision of these bright lights, and 
heedest not that which comes after them ? " 

Then I beheld people, clad in white, following as after 
their leaders ; and whiteness so pure here never 
was with us. 

Bright shone the water on my left flank, and reflected to 
me my left side, if I gazed therein, even as a mirror. 

When I was so placed on my bank that the river alone 

kept me distant, to see better I gave halt to my 

and I saw the flames advance, leaving the air behind 

them painted, and of trailing pennants they had 

the semblance ; 

so that the air above remained streaked with seven 
bands, all those colours whereof the sun makes 
his bow, and Delia her girdle. 

These banners streamed to the rearward far beyond my 
sight, and as I might judge, the outermost were 
ten paces apart. 

Beneath so fair a sky, as I describe, came four and 
twenty elders, two by two, crowned with flower- 

All were singing : " Blessed thou among the daughters 
of Adam, and blessed to all eternity be thy 

When the flowers and the other tender herbs opposite 
to me on the other bank, were free from those 
chosen people, 


even as star follows star in the heavens, four creatures 

came after them, each one crowned with green 

Every one was plumed with six wings, the plumes full 

of eyes ; and the eyes of Argus, were they living, 

would be such. 
To describe their form, reader, I spill no more rhymes ; 

for other charges bind me so, that herein I cannot 

be lavish. 
But read Ezekiel, who depicts them as he saw them 

coming from the cold region, with whirlwind, with 

cloud, and with fire ; 

and as thou shalt find them in his pages, such were they 
here, save that in the pinions John is with me, and 
differs from him. 

The space within the four of them contained a car 
triumphal, upon two wheels, which came drawn at 
the neck of a grifon. 

And he stretched upwards one wing and the other, 
between the middle and the three and three bands, 
so that he did hurt to none by cleaving. 

So high they rose that they were not seen ; his members 
had he of gold, so far as he was a bird, and the 
others white mingled with vermilion. 

Not Africanus, nor in sooth, Augustus, e'er rejoiced 
Rome with a car so fair as this, and that of the 
sun would be poor beside it, 

that of the sun which straying was consumed at the 
devout prayer of the earth, when Jove was mysteri- 
ously just. 

Three ladies came dancing in a round by the right 
wheel ; one so red that hardly would she be noted 
in the fire ; 


the next was as if her flesh and bone had been made 
of emerald ; the third seemed new fallen snow ; 

and now seemed they led by the white, now by the red, 
and from the song of her the others took measure 
slow and quick. 

By the left wheel, four clad in purple, made festival, 
following the lead of one of them, who had three 
eyes in her head. 

After all the group described, I saw two aged men, 
unlike in raiment, but like in bearing, and venerable 
and grave : 

one showed him to be of the familiars of that highest 
Hippocrates whom nature made for the creatures 
she holds most dear ; 

the other showed the contrary care, with a sword 
glittering and sharp, such that on this side the 
stream it made me afeard. 

Then saw I four of lowly semblance ; and behind all, 
an old man solitary, coming in a trance, with visage 

And these seven were arrayed as the first company ;. 
but of lilies around their heads no garland had 

rather of roses and of other red flowers ; one who 
viewed from a short distance would have sworn 
that all were aflame above the eyes. 

And when the car was opposite to me, a thunder clap, 
was heard ; and those worthy folk seemed to have 
their further march forbidden, and halted there 
with the first ensigns. 


Canto XXX. 

When the wain of the first heaven which setting nor 
rising never knew, nor veil of other mist than of 

and which made there each one aware of his duty, even 
as the lower wain guides him who turns the helm 
to come into port, 

had stopped still, the people of truth, who had first 
come between the grifon and it, turned them to 
the car as to their peace ; 

and one of them as if sent from heaven " Veni sponsa de 
Libano " did shout thrice in song, and all the others 
after him. 

As the saints at the last trump shall rise ready each 
one from his tomb, with re-clad voice singing 

such on the divine chariot rose up a hundred ad vocem 
tanti senis, ministers and messengers of life eternal. 

All were saying : " Benedictus qui vents " ; and, strew- 
ing flowers above and around, " Manibus o date 
lilia plenis." 

Ere now have I seen, at dawn of day, the eastern part 
all rosy red, and the rest of heaven adorned with 
fair clear sky. 

and the face of the sun rise shadowed, so that by the 
tempering of the mists the eye long time endured 

So within a cloud of flowers, which rose from the 
angelic hands and fell down again within and 

■olive-crowned over a white veil, a lady appeared to me, 
clad under a green mantle, with hue of living flame. 


And my spirit, that now so long a time had passed, 
since, trembling in her presence, it had been 
broken down with awe, 

without having further knowledge by mine eyes, through 
hidden virtue which went out from her, felt the 
mighty power of ancient love. 

Soon as on my sight the lofty virtue smote, which alrfeady 
had pierced me ere I was out of my boyhood, 

I turned me to the left with the trust with which the 
little child runs to his mother when he is frightened 
or when he is aflBicted, 

to say to Virgil: "Less than a drachm of blood is left 
in me that trembleth not ; I recognize the tokens 
of the ancient flame." 

But Virgil had left us bereft of himself, Virgil sweetest 
Father, Virgil to whom for my weal I gave me up ;. 

nor did all that our ancient mother lost, avail to keep 
my deW-washed cheeks from turning dark again 
with tears. 

"Dante, for that Virgil goeth away, weep not yet, 

weep not yet, for thou must weep for other 

Even as an admiral, who at stern and at bow, comes ta 

see the folk that man the other ships, and heartens 

them to brave deeds, 
so on the left side of the car, when I turned me at sound 

of my name, which of necessity here is recorded, 

I saw the lady, who first appeared to me veiled beneath 
the angelic festival, directing her eyes to me on 
this side of the stream. 

Albeit the veil which fell from her head, crowned with 
Minerva's leaves, did not let her appear manifest. 


queen-like in bearing, yet stern, she continued like one 

who speaks and holdeth back the hottest words 

till the last: 
" Look at me well ; verily am I, verily am I Beatrice. 

How didst thou deign to draw nigh the mount ? 

Knowest thou not that here man is happy ? " 

Mine eyes dropped down to the clear fount ; but be- 
holding me therein, I drew them back to the grass, 
so great a shame weighed dovim my brow. 

So doth the mother seem stern to her child, as she 

seemed to me ; for the savour of harsh pity tasteth 

of bitterness. 
She was silent, and straightway the angels sang: "/« 

te^ Domine, speravi " ; but beyond '■'•pedes meos " 

they passed not. 

As the snow amid the living rafters along Italia's back 
is frozen under blast and stress of Slavonian 

then melted trickles down through itself, if but the 
land that loseth shade doth breathe, so that it 
seems fire melting the candle, 

so without tears or sighs was I before the song of those 
who ever accord their notes after the melodies of 
the eternal spheres. 

But when I heard in their sweet harmonies their com- 
passion on me, more than if they had said, " Lady, 
why dost thou so shame him ? " 

the ice which had closed about my heart became breath 
and water, and with anguish through mouth and 
eyes issued from my breast. 

She, standing yet fixed on the said side of the car, then 
turned her words to the pitying angels thus : 


" Ye watch in the everlasting day, so that nor night 
nor sleep stealeth from you one step which the 
world may take along its ways ; 

wherefore my answer is with greater care, that he who 
yon side doth weep may understand me, so that 
sin and sorrow be of one measure. 

Not only by operation of the mighty spheres that direct 

each seed to some end, according as the stars are 

its companions, 
but by the bounty of graces divine, which have for 

their rain vapours so high that our eyes reach not 

nigh them, 
this man was such in his new life potentially, that every 

good talent would have made wondrous increase 

in him. 
But so much the more rank and wild the ground be- 
comes with evil seed and untilled, the more it hath 

of good strength of soil. 
Some time I sustained him with my countenance ; 

showing my youthful eyes to him I led him with 

me turned to the right goal. 

So soon as I was on the threshold of my second age, 

and I changed life, he forsook me, and gave him 

to others. 
When I was risen from flesh to spirit, and beauty and 

virtue were increased within me, 1 was less precious 

and less pleasing to him ; 
and he did turn his steps by a way not true, pursuing false 

visions of good, that pay back no promise entire. 

Nor did it avail me to gain inspirations, with which in 
dream and otherwise, I called him back ; so little 
recked he of them. 


So low sank he, that all means for his salvation were 
already short, save showing him the lost people. 

For this I visited the portal of the dead, and to him 
who has guided him up hither, weeping my prayers 
were borne. 

God's high decree would be broken, if Lethe were 
passed, and such viands were tasted, without some 
scot of penitence that may shed tears." 

The Divine Pageant moves eastward ; Dante beholds 
the mystic tree. The vision is filled with a profusion 
of symbols, as bewildering as those in Ezekiel ; Dante, 
having drunk of Lethe and Eunoe, concludes the 
" Purgatorio " (" Purg.," Canto xxxiii. 142-145). 

" I came back from the most holy waves born again, 
even as new trees renewed with new foliage, pure 
and ready to mount to the stars." 

" Puro e disposto a salire alle stelle." 


" The colourless and formless and intangible essence 
is visible to the mind, which is the only lord of the soul : 
circling around this in the region above the heavens is 
the place of true knowledge." Thus Plato in the 
" Phaedrus " ; and likewise, " Now of the heaven which 
is above the heavens no earthly poet has sung, or ever 
will sing in a worthy manner." 

Here our agreement with Plato is to be tempered by 
the definition of two words : undefined " earthly " and 
" worthy." Yet if we seek a true definition of the 
" Paradiso " we must take it from the same Greek 
dialogue : 

"And this is the recollection of those things which 
our souls saw when in company with God — when looking 


down from above on that which we now call being, and 
upward toward the true being." 

("Paradiso," Canto i. 1-13) : 
" The All-mover's glory penetrates through the universe, 

and regloweth in one region more, and less in 

In that heaven which most receiveth of his light have 

I been ; and have seen things which whoso de- 

scendeth from up there hath neither knowledge nor 

power to re-tell ; because, as it draweth nigh to 

its desire, our intellect sinketh so deep that memory 

cannot go back upon the track. 
Natheless, whatever of the holy realm I had the power 

to treasure in my memory shall now be matter of 

my song." 
Nowhere is the nature of the mystic ecstasy so well 
described as in Canto i. 67-69 : 
" Gazing on her such I became within, as was Glaucus, 

tasting of the grass that made him the sea-fellow 

of the other gods." 
Yet there follows the reservation in the next lines, 
70-82 : 
" To pass beyond humanity may not be told in w.ords, 

wherefore let the example satisfy him for whom 

grace reserveth the experience. 
If I was only that of me which thou didst new-create, 

O Love who rulest heaven, thou knowest, who 

with thy light didst hft me up. 
When the wheel which thou, by being longed for, 

makest eternal, drew unto itself my mind with the 

harmony which thou dost temper and distinguish, 
so much of heaven then seemed to me enkindled with 

the sun's flame, that rain nor river ever made 

a lake so widely distended." 


Dante's own attitude towards the readers of his 
highest song is everywhere manifest. 

Beatrice's gentleness in guiding him [" Paradiso " i. 
100-105 ■ 

" Whereon she, after a sigh of pity, turned her eyes 
toward me with that look a mother casts on her 
delirious child ; 

and began : ' All things whatsoever observe a mutual 
order ; and this is the form that maketh the universe 
like unto God.' "] 

is in some measure extended to the reader, who is both 
warned and allured (Canto ii. 1-2 1) : 

" O ye who in your little skiff, longing to hear, have 
followed on my keel that singeth on its way, 

turn to revisit your own shores ; commit you not to the 
open sea ; for perchance, losing me, ye would be 
left astray. 

The water which I take was never coursed before ; 
Minerva bloweth, Apollo guideth me, and the nine 
Muses point me to the Bears. 

Ye other few, who timely have lifted up your necks for 
bread of angels whereby life is here sustained but 
wherefrom none cometh away sated, 

ye may indeed commit your vessel to the deep keeping 
my furrow, in advance of the water that is falling 
back to the level. 

The glorious ones who fared to Colchis not so mar- 
velled as shall ye, when Jason turned ox-plough- 
man in their sight. 

The thirst, born with us and ne'er failing, for the god- 
like realm bore us swift almost as ye see the 


For the description of the ascent the following 
passages serve without gloze (" Paradiso," Canto ii. 

" Meseemed a cloud enveloped us, shining dense, firm 
and polished, like diamond smitten by the sun. 

"Within itself the eternal pearl received us, as water 
doth receive a ray of light, though still itself 

With such beauty as this is the " Paradiso " radiant. 
Thus of the spirits in the lunar heaven (Canto iii. 
9-24) : 
" In such guise as, from glasses transparent and polished, 

or from waters clear and tranquil, not so deep 

that the bottom is darkened, 
come back the notes of our faces, so faint that a 

pearl on a white brow cometh not slowlier, upon 

our pupils ; 

so did I behold many a countenance, eager to speak; 

wherefore I fell into the counter-error of that 

which kindled love between the man and fountain. 
No sooner was I aware of them, thinking them reflected 

images, I turned round my eyes to see of whom 

they were." 

Picarda's speech of explanation contains that phil- 
osophy with which some say the poem is over-loaded. 
Surely this also is the very marrow of beauty. 

Canto iii. 1. 70. 

" ' Brother, the quantity of love stilleth our will, and 
maketh us long only for what we have, and giveth 
us no other thirst. 

Did we desire to be more aloft, our longings were 
discordant from his will who here assorteth us, 


and for that, thou wilt see, there is no room within 
these circles, if of necessity we have our being 
here in love, and if thou think again what is love's 

Nay, 'tis the essence of this blessed being to hold 
ourselves within the divine will, whereby our own 
wills are themselves made one. 

So that our being thus, from threshold unto threshold 
throughout the realm, is a joy to all the realm as 
to the king, who draweth our wills to what he 
willeth ; 

and his will is our peace ; it is that sea to which all 
moves that it createth and that nature maketh.' 

Clear was it then to me how everywhere in heaven 
is Paradise, e'en though the grace of the chief 
Good doth not reign there after one fashion only." 

The beauty of the "Paradiso" hardly suffers one to 
transplant it in fragments, as I here attempt. 

It is of this sort of poetry that Coleridge says: 
" Our regard is not for particular passages but for a 
continuous undercurrent." There are beautiful images 
in the "Paradiso," but the chief marvel is not the 

Such lines as Canto v. 7-12 — 

" lo veggio ben si come gia risplende 
Velio intelletto tuo /' eterna luce, 
Che, vista sola, sempre amore accende ; 

E s' altra cosa vostro amor seduce, 
Non t se non di quella alcun vestigia 
Mai comsciuto, che quivi trainee " — 

lose too much in a prose translation, illuminated though 
they be in essence. 


In Canto vi. the incident of Romeo can be dis- 
entangled from its context. We are now in the heaven 
of mercury, the second heaven, assigned to the honour- 

Canto vi. 124-142 

" Divers voices upon earth make sweet melody, and so 
the divers seats in our life render sweet harmony 
amongst these wheels. 

And within the present pearl shineth the light of 
Romeo, whose beauteous and great work was so 
ill answered. 

But the Provengals who wrought against him have not 
the laugh ; wherefore he taketh an ill path who 
maketh of another's good work his own loss. 

Four daughters had Raymond Berenger, and every one 
a queen, and this was wrought for him by Romeo, 
a lowly and an alien man ; 

then words uttered askance moved him to demand 
account of this just man, who gave him five and 
seven for every ten ; 

who then took his way in poverty and age ; and might 
the world know the heart he had within him, 
begging his life by crust and crust, much as it 
praiseth, it would praise him more." 

The historical background to the passage can be 
found in "Villani," or in the notes to the Temple 
edition of the " Paradiso." 

Though it be true that no man who has not passed 
through, or nearly approached that spiritual experience 
known as illumination — I use the word in a technical 
sense — can appreciate the " Paradiso " to the full, yet 


there is sheer poetic magic in a line Uke (Canto vii. 


" Gli angeli,frate, e il paese sincero" 

which no lover of the highest art can fail to feel. 

I am always filled with a sort of angry wonder that 
any one professing to care for poetry can ^ remain in 
ignorance of the tongue in which the " Commedia " 
is written. It shows a dulness, a stolidity, which is 
incomprehensible to any one who really knows the 
" Commedia." 

I do not need to quote the subtlest living translator, 
who, speaking of " the still unsurpassed vision of the 
Divine Comedy," says : " To translate Dante is an 
impossible thing, for to do it would demand, as the 
first requirement, a concise and luminous style equal 
to Wordsworth at his besty The italics are my own ; 
the quotation is from Arthur Symons, on Cary, in 
"The Romantic Movement in English Literature." 

The original of the following passage (vii. 136-144) : 

" Creatafu la materia cK egli hanno, 
creatafu la virtu informante 
in queste stelle, che intomo a lor vanno. 

V anima d' ogni brutae delle piante 

di complession potenziata lira 

lo raggio e il moto delle luci sante. 

Ma vostra vita senza mezzo spira 
la somma beninanza, e la innamora 
di sh, si pot sempre la disira," 

is infinitely more beautiful than the bare sense in 
English, which is : 

" Created was the matter which they hold, created was 

1 Unless hindered by some irremovable obstacle, natural or 


the informing virtue in these stars which sweep 
around them. 

The life of every brute and of the plants is drawn from 
compounds having potency, by the ray and move- 
ment of the sacred lights. 

But your life is breathed without mean by the supreme 
beneficence who maketh it enamoured of itself,^ so 
that thereafter it doth ever long for it." 

" In queste stelle, che intomo a hr vanno," 

with the suave blending of the elided vowels, has in its 
sound alone more of the serene peace from that un- 
sullied country than can be conveyed in any words 
save those flowing from the lips of a supreme genius. 

Canto viii. 13-27 

"I had no sense of rising into it, but my lady gave 
me full faith that I was there, because I saw her 
grow more beautiful. 

And as we see a spark within a flame, and as a voice 
within a voice may be distinguished, if one stayeth 
firm, and the other cometh and goeth ; 

so, in that light itself I perceived other torches 
moving in a circle more or less swift, after the 
measure, I suppose, of their eternal vision. 

From a chill cloud there ne'er descended blasts, or 

visible or no, so rapidly as not to seem hindered 

and lagging, 
to whoso should have seen those lights divine advance 

towards us, quitting the circling that hath its first 

beginning in the exalted Seraphim." 
He is speaking of the third heaven, that of Venus. 

^ I.e. the beneficence. 


Here, in defiance of convention, we find Cunizza 
(Canto ix. 31-33) : 

''Out of one root spring I with it; Cunizza was I 
called, and here I glow because the light of this 
star overcame me." 

In Canto ix. 1. 103-106: 

(" Yet here we not repent, but smile ; not at the sin, 
which cometh not again to mind, but at the Worth 
that ordered and provided," ) 

we have matter for a philosophical treatise as long as 
the "Paradiso." 

Canto ix. 1. 133-135 : 

'' Therefore it is that the Gospel and great Doctors 
are deserted, and only the Decretals are so studied, 
as may be seen upon their margins," 

shows Dante's scant regard for the ecclesiastical lumber 
by which his philosophy is said by certain critics to 
be smothered. 

With the third heaven the shadow of earth is left 
behind ; in the fourth, the shadow of the sun. 

In Canto x. 64-69 he describes the dwellers therein : 

" Then saw I many a glow, living and conquering, make 
of us a centre, and of themselves a crown ; sweeter 
in voice than shining in appearance. 

Thus girt we sometimes see Latona's daughter, when 
the air is so impregnated as to retain the thread 
that makes her zone." 

In Canto x. 70-81 he describes their manifestation 
of joy: 


" In the court of heaven, whence I have returned, are 
many gems so clear and beauteous that from that 
realm they may not be withdrawn, 

and the song of these lights was of such that he who 
doth not so wing himself that he may fly up there, 
must look for news thence from the dumb. 

When, so singing, those burning suns had circled round 
us thrice, like stars neighbouring the fixed poles, 

they seemed as ladies,, not from the dance released, but 
silent, listening till they catch the notes renewed." 

With constant light, and ever-increasing melody the 

ascent continues. 

In Canto xii. 10-24 he gives us the figure of the 

double rainbow : 

" As sweep o'er the thin mist two bows, parallel and 
like in colour, when Juno maketh behest to her 

the one without born from the one within — in fashion 
of the speech of that wandering nymph whom love 
consumed as the sun doth the vapours, — 

making folk on earth foreknow, in virtue of the com- 
pact that God made with Noah, that the world 
shall never be drowned again ; 

so of those sempiternal roses there revolved around us 
the two garlands, and so the outmost answered to 
the other : 

Soon as the dance and high great festival, — alike of 
song and flashing light with light, gladsome and 
benign, — paused at one point and one desire." 

In the fifth heaven (that of Mars) glows the glorious 
cross of stars, recalling by its difference the vision of 
the Saxon Caedmon. 


Canto xiv. 97-11 1. 

" As, pricked out with less and greater lights, between 
the poles of the universe the Milky Way so gleameth 
white as to set very sages questioning, 

so did those rays, star-decked, make in the depth of 

Mars ^ the venerable sign which crossing quadrant 

lines make in a circle. 
Here my memory doth outrun my wit, for that cross so 

flashed forth Christ I may not find example worthy. 
But whoso taketh his cross and foUoweth Christ shall 

yet forgive me what I leave unsaid, when he shall 

see Christ lighten in that glow. 
From horn to horn, from summit unto base, were moving 

lights that sparkled mightily in meeting one another 

and in passing." 
And the accompanying melody, 11 8- 123 : 

" And as viol and harp tuned in harmony of many cords, 

make sweet chiming to one by whom the notes are 

not apprehended, 
so from the lights that there appeared to me was 

gathered on the cross a strain that rapt me, albeit 

I followed not the hymn." 

" / zifvi suggelli d' ogni ie/kzza " (1. 133) 

recalls Richard St Victor's luminous treatise, "The 
Benjamin Minor." 

Canto XV. 4-7 : 

" The benign will . . . 

imposed silence on that sweet lyre, and stilled the sacred 

things, which the right hand of heaven looseneth 

and stretcheth," 
so of the silence following this melody. 

1 I.e. not in the planet, but the heaven in which the planet moves. 


Canto XV. 13-24 

" As through the tranquil and pure skies darteth, from 
time to time, a sudden flame setting a-moving eyes 
that erst were steady, 

seeming a star that changeth place, save that from 
where it kindleth no star is lost, and that itself 
endureth but a little ; 

such from the horn that stretcheth to the right unto 
that cross's foot, darteth a star of the constellation 
that is there a-glow ; 

nor did the gem depart from oflF its riband, but coursed 
along the radial line, like fire burning behind 

" che parve foco retro ad alabastro." 

In Canto xvii. Cacciaguida, prophesying to Dante 
his future misfortunes, -utters the lines since hackneyed 
" Thou shah make trial of how salt doth taste another's 

bread, and how hard the path to descend and mount 

upon another's stair." 

The word '■'■scale'" bears, of course, the barbed pun 
on Can Grande's family name. 

But no one can take the quiet humour as ill-natured, 
or read it apart from the context in praise of Bartolomeo 
and Can Grande, 70-87 : 
" Thy first refuge and first hostelry shall be the courtesy 

of the great Lombard, who on the ladder beareth 

the sacred bird, 
for who shall cast so benign regard on thee that of doing 

and demanding, that shall be first betwixt you two^ 

which betwixt others most doth lag. 


With him thou shah see the one who so at his birth 

was stamped by this strong star, that notable shall 

be his deeds. 
Not yet have folk taken due note of him, because of 

his young age, for only nine years have these wheels 

rolled round him. 

But ere the Gascon have deceived the lofty Henry, 
sparks of his virtue shall appear in carelessness of 
silver and of toils. 

His deeds munificent shall yet be known so that con- 
cerning them his very foes shall not be able to 
keep silent tongues." 

The "Paradiso" holds one by its all-pervading sense 
of beauty, even so the lines xxiii. 79-80 stand out from 
the surrounding text. 

"As, by the light of a sun-ray coming through a 
broken cloud, mine eyes have before seen a meadow 
of flowers covered with shadow, so did I see more hosts 
of splendours, illumined from above by ardent light, yet 
saw not the source of the effulgence." 

It is beautiful because of the objective vision, and it 
is all the more remarkable in having been written 
centuries before the painters had taught men to note 
light and shade, and to watch for such effects in nature. 

In this same canto Dante anticipates Coleridge's most 
magical definition of beauty (xaXov quasi xaXovi) in lines 

" Whatever melody most sweetly soundeth on earth, 
and doth most draw the soul unto itself, would seem a 
rent cloud's thundering, compared to the sound of that 
lyre, whereby is crowned that sapphire whereby the 
clearest heaven is ensapphired." 


With what Homeric majesty, and what simplicity 
falls his epithet for that sphere which whirls the largest, 
the primum mobile, most volent of the concentric spheres 

^'' Lo real manto." (1. 113.) 

"The royal mantle." 

The beautiful simile, xxvi. 85, shows how well he 
had followed Arnaut Daniel. 

" As the spray which boweth its tip at the transit of 
the wind, and then of its own power doth raise it again ; 
so I while Beatrice was speaking." 

It is no borrowing, but it is Arnaut's kind of beauty. 

In xxviii. we find what seems to me the finest of the 
explanatory passages ; it concerns the angelic hierarchies 
(line 106). 

" And thou shouldst know that all have their delight 
In measure as their sight more deeply sinketh 
Into that truth where every mind grows still ; 
From this thou mayest see that being blessM 
Buildeth itself upon the power of sight 
Not upon love which is there-consequent. 
Lo, merit hath its measure in that sight 
Which grace begetteth and the righteous will, 
And thus from grade to grade the progress goeth." 

The vigour of sunlight in the " Paradiso" is unmatched 
in art, even by Blake's design, " When the morning stars 
sang together " ; being a quality of the whole it is hard 
to illustrate by fragments ; it is, however, reflected in 
the following lines (xxviii. 11 5-1 20) : 

"The second ternary which thus flowereth in this 
eternal spring, which nightly Aries despoileth not, 
unceasingly unwintereth ' Hosanna ' with three melodies, 
which sound in the three orders of joy wherewith it is 


And in xxix. 76 : 

" Queste sustanzie, po'tche fur gioconde 
dellafaccia di Dio." 

(There is no English equivalent.) 

xxix. 142-146 is likewise in translatable. 

" Vedi I'ecceho omai, e la largkezza 
dell' eterno valor, poscla che tanti 
speculifatti j' ha, in che si spezza, 
uno manendo in se, come davanti." 

In Canto xxx. begins the description of the ultimate 
heaven, the Empyrean of pure light. Fainting, restored, 
and again illumined, Dante continues (1. 61-69) : 

" And I saw light in the form of a river, tawny with 
brightness, between two banks painted with miraculous 

" From such a flood there issued living sparks, and 
dropped on every side into the flowers, like unto 
rubies which gold circumscribes. 

" Then, as if drunk with the odours, they re-plunged 
themselves (riprofondavan se) into the marvelous torrent, 
and as one entered another issued forth." 

In 1. 76-8 Beatrice says of the river : 

"The river and the topaz-gems which enter and go 
forth are shadowy prefaces of their truth." 

1. 109-129 describe the paradisal rose: 

"And as in water a hill-slope mirrors itself from its 
base, as if to see itself adorned, when it is richest in 
grasses and in flowers 

" So mounting above the light, circle on circle, mirror- 
ing itself in more than a thousand thresholds all that 
(part) of us which hath won return up thither. 


" And if the lowest step gathereth in itself such great 
light, what is the largess of that rose in its extremest 
petals ? 

"My sight fainted not in the breadth and height, 
but understood the ' How much ' and the ' What sort ' 
of that joy. 

"There neither ' Near' nor ' Far' doth add nor take 
away, for where God governeth without medium, 
natural law pertaineth not. 

"Into the yellow of the sempiternal rose, which 
dilates and outstretches, and sendeth up the odour of 
praise unto the Sun that ever giveth forth Spring, 

"Beatrice drew me up, I being as one who would 
keep silence and yet speak, and she said to me : ' Behold, 
how great is the convent of the white stoles ! ' " 

Of the angels and the rose, Dante writes (xxxi. 

"As a swarm of bees that now inflowereth itself, 
and now retumeth to where its labour is made honey, 

" they descended into the great flower that is 
adorned with so many petals, and thence reascended to 
that place where their love sojourneth ever. 

"Faces had they of living brightness, and golden 
wings, and the rest of them of whiteness that no snow 
ever attaineth." 

To Beatrice, when she has resumed her place in the 
rose, he says : 

"O lady, in whom is the might of ray hope, who 
hast for my salvation suflfered thyself to leave in hell 
thy foot-prints ; 

" For all the things which I have seen, I recognize 
the grace and the might of thy power and of thy 
kindness. " 


" From slavery hast thou drawn me into liberty, by 
all the roads and by all the modes wherein thou hast 
had power of action." 

These nine lines, taken apart from the context, are, 
I suppose, the noblest love lyric in the world, unless we 
shall bring the " Magnificat " itself into the comparison. 

Of Mary he writes (xxxi. 133-135) : 

" Vidi quivi at lor gkchi ed at lor canti 
ridere una bellezza, che letizia 
era negli occhi a tuttl gli altri santi." 

Of the final manifestation he writes (xxxiii. 55-66): 

"Thence was the vision mightier than our speech, 
which at such vision faileth, and memory faileth con- 
cerning such a 'passing beyond.' 

" As one who dreaming seeth, and after the dream, 
the passion impressed remaineth, while naught else 
Cometh back upon the mind ; 

" Such was I, so that nearly all my vision ceaseth, 
but the sweet which was born thereof still distilleth 
itself within the heart. 

" Thus doth the snow before the sun unstamp itself, 
thus in the light leaves upon the wind was lost the 
Sybil's saying." 

In 85-89: 

"In its profound I saw contain itself, bound by love 
into one volume, that which is read throughout the 
universe ; substance and accidents and their customs, in 
such wise that that which 1 speak is a simple light." 

And then the conclusion, 1. 124-145: 

" O light eternal, that dost dwell only in thyself, 
alone dost comprehend thyself, and self-comprehended, 
self-comprehending, dost love and send forth gladness ! 


"That circling, which so conceived appeared in thee 
as a reflected light, beheld awhile by my eyes, within 
itself, of its own colour, appeared to me painted in our 
image, wherefore my sight was all committed to it. 

" As is the geometer who sets himself to square the 
circle, and does not find, by thinking, that principle 
whence he lacketh, such was I at this new sight; I 
would have wished to see how the image conveneth to 
the circle, and how it is contained ; but for this my 
wings were unfitted, save that my mind was smitten 
by an effiilgence, wherein its will came to it. 

" Power I lack for this high fantasy, but already my 
desire and the will were turned, as a wheel which is 
balanced perfectly and moveth, by love that moves the 
sun and all the stars." 

" /' amor che move il sole e /' altre stelle" 

Surely for the great poem that ends herewith our 
befitting praise were silence. 

The " Divina Commedia " must not be considered as an 
epic; to compare it with epic poems is usually unprofitable. 
It is in a sense lyric, the tremendous lyric of the subjec- 
tive Dante ; but the soundest classification of the poem 
is Dante's own, " as a comedy which differs from tragedy 
in its content " (Epistle to Can Grande), for " tragedy 
begins admirably and tranquilly," and the end is terrible, 
"whereas comedy introduces some harsh complication, 
but brings the matter to a prosperous end." The 
"Commedia" is, in fact, a great Mystery Play, or 
better, a cycle of mystery plays. 

In the passages quoted I have in no way attempted 
to summarize the " Commedia " ; it is itself an epitome. 
I have tried to illustrate some, not all, of the qualities 
of its beauty, but Dante in English is Marsyas un- 


Any sincere criticism of the highest po.etry must 
resolve itself into a sort of profession of faith. The 
critic must begin with a " credo" and his opinion will be 
received in part for the intelligence he may seem to 
possess, and in part for his earnestness. Certain of 
Dante's supremacies are comprehensible only to such 
as know Italian and have themselves attained a certain 
proficiency in the poetic art. An ipse dixit is not neces- 
sarily valueless. The penalty for remaining a layman 
is that one must at times accept a specialist's opinion. 
No one ever took the trouble to become a specialist 
for the bare pleasure of ramming his ipse dixit down 
the general throat. 

There are two kinds of beautiful painting one may 
perhaps illustrate by the works of Burne-Jones and 
Whistler ; one looks at the first kind of painting and 
is immediately delighted by its beauty ; the second 
kind of painting, when first seen, puzzles one, but 
on leaving it, and going from the gallery one finds 
new beauty in natural things — a Thames fog, to use 
the hackneyed example. Thus, there are works of 
art which are beautiful objects and works of art 
which are keys or passwords admitting one to a 
deeper knowledge, to a finer perception of beauty; 
Dante's work is of the second sort. 

Presumably critical analysis must precede in part 
by comparison; Wordsworth is, we may say, the 
orthodox sign for comprehension of nature, yet where 
has Wordsworth written hnes more instinct with 
"nature-feeling" than those iu the twenty-eighth of 
the "Purgatorio." 

" P aqua diss' to, e il suon delkforesta 
impugnan dentro a me novella fede." 
" The water, quoth I, and the woodland murmuring 
drive in new faith upon my soul." 


So one is tempted to translate it for the sake of the 
rhythm, but Dante has escaped the metaphysical term, 
and describes the actual sensation with more intensity. 
His words are : 

" in-drive new faith within to me." 

Wordsworth and the Uncouth American share the 
palm for modern " pantheism," or some such thing ; 
but weigh their words with the opening lines of the 
" Paradiso " : 

" La gloria di colui eke turn move 
Per r unwerso penetra e rispknde 
In una parte piu, e meno altrove." 

" The glory of him who moveth all 
Penetrates and is resplendent through the all 
In one part more and in another less." 

The disciples of Whitman cry out concerning the 
"Cosmic Sense," but Whitman, with ail his catalogues 
and flounderings, has never so perfectly expressed the 
perception of Cosmic Consciousness as does Dante in 
the canto just quoted (i. 68-69) • 

" Qualsife' Glauco nel gustar delF erba 
Che life' consorto in mar degli altri del." 

" As Glaucus, tasting of the grass which made him sea-fellow of 
the other gods." 

Take it as simple prose expression, forget that it 
is told with matchless sound, discount the suggestion 
of the parallel beauty in the older myth, and it is still 
more convincing than Whitman. 

Shelley, I believe, ranks highest as the English " tran- 
scendental " poet, whatever that may mean. Shelley is 
honest in his endeavour to translate a part of Dante's 
message into the more northern tongue. He is, in 
sort, a faint echo of the "Paradiso," very much as Rossetti 

t64 the spirit OF ROMANCE 

is, at his best, an echo of the shorter Tuscan poetry. 
I doubt if Shelley ever thought of concealing the source 
of much of this beauty, which he made his own by 
appreciation. Certainly few men have honoured Dante 
more than did Shelley. His finest poem, " The Ode to 
the West Wind," bears witness to his impressions of 
the earlier canti; thus to "Inferno" iii., of the host 
under the whirling ensign, and especially the lines 

" Come £ autunno si levan le foglie 
V uno appreso delP altra infin che U ramo 
Vede alia terra tutte le sue spoglie." 

" As leaves of autumn fall one after one 
Till the branch seeth all it spoils upon 
The ground. . . ." 

The full passage from which this is taken foreshadows 
Shelley's " pestilence-stricken multitudes." In the Vth 
Canto : 

" om&re portate della briga," 

" shadows borne upon the aforesaid strife," 

and the rest, with the movement of the wind, is 
pregnant with suggestions for the splendid English 
ode. I detract nothing from Shelley's glory, for of the 
tens of thousands who have read these canti, only one 
has written such an ode. 

This is not an isolated or a chance incident, the best 
of Shelley is filled with memories of Dante. 

The comparison of Dante and Milton is at best 
a stupid convention. Shelley resembles Dante afar 
off, and in a certain effect of clear light which both 

Milton resembles Dante in nothing ; judging super- 
ficially, one might say that they both wrote long poems 
which mention God and the angels, but their gods and 


their angels are as different as their styles and abilities. 
Dante's god is ineffable divinity. Milton's god is a 
fussy old man with a hobby. Dante is metaphysical, 
where Milton is merely sectarian. " Paradise Lost " is 
conventional melodrama, and later critics have decided 
that the devil is intended for the hero, which interpreta- 
tion leaves the whole without significance. Dante's 
satan is undeniably and indelibly evil. He is not " Free 
Will" but stupid malignity. Milton has no grasp of 
the super-human, Milton's angels are men of enlarged 
power, plus wings. Dante's angels surpass human 
nature, and differ from it. They move in their high 
courses inexplicable. 

" mafe sembiante 
d' uomo, cut altra cura stringa." 

" Appeared as a man whom other care incites." 

"Inf." ix. loi. 

Milton, moreover, shows a complete ignorance of the 
things of the spirit. Any attempt to compare the 
two poets as equals is bathos, and it is, incidentally, 
unfair to Milton, because it makes one forget all his 
laudable qualities. 

Shakespear alone of the English poets endures sus- 
tained comparison with the Florentine. Here are we 
with the masters ; of neither can we say, " He is the 
greater " ; of each we must say, " He is unexcelled." 

It is idle to ask what Dante would have made of 
writing stage plays, or what Shakespear would have 
done with a " Paradise." 

There is almost an exact three centuries between 
their dates of birth [Dante, b. 1265; Shakespear, 
1564.] America had been discovered, printing, the 
Reformation, the Renaissance were new forces at work. 
Much change had swept over the world ; but art and 


humanity, remaining ever the same, gave us basis for 

Dante would seem to have the greater imaginative 
"vision," the greater ability to see the marvellous 
scenery through which his action passes ; but Shake- 
spear's vision is never deficient, though his expression 
of it be confined to a few lines of suggestion and the 
prose of the stage directions. 

Shakespear would seem to have greater power in 
depicting various humanity, and to be more observant 
of its foibles ; but recalling Dante's comparisons to the 
gamester leaving the play, to the peasant at the time 
of hoar-frost, to the folk passing in the shadow of 
evening, one wonders if he would have been less apt 
at fitting them with speeches. His dialogue is com- 
paratively symbolic, it serves a purpose similar to that 
of the speeches in Plato, yet both he and Plato convey 
the impression of individuals speaking. 

If the language of Shakespear is more beautifully 
suggestive, that of Dante is more beautifully definite ; 
both men are masters of the whole art. Shakespear 
is perhaps more brilliant in his use of epithets of proper 
quality ; thus I doubt if there be in Dante, or in all 
literature, any epithet so masterfully-placed as is Shake- 
spear's in the speech of the Queen-mother to Hamlet, 
where she says: 

" And with the incorporal air do hold discourse," 

suggesting both the common void of the air which she 
sees and the ghostly form at which Hamlet stands 
aghast; on the other hand, Dante is, perhaps, more 
apt in " comparison." 

" The apt use of metaphor, arising, as it does, from 
a swift perception of relations, is the hall-mark of 
genius " : thus says Aristotle. I use the term " com- 


parison " to include metaphor, simile (which is a more 
leisurely expression of a kindred variety of thought), 
and the "language beyond metaphor," that is, the 
more compressed or elliptical expression of metaphorical 
perception, such as antithesis suggested or implied in 
verbs and adjectives ; for we find adjectives of two 
sorts, thus, adjectives of pure quality, as : white, cold, 
ancient; and adjectives which are comparative, as: 
lordly. Epithets may also be distinguished as epithets 
of primary and secondary apparition. By epithets of 
primary apparition I mean those which describe what is 
actually presented to the sense or vision. Thus in 
seha oscura, " shadowy wood " ; epithets of secondary 
apparition or after-thought are such as in '■'•sage 
Hippotades " or '■'■forbidden tree." Epithets of primary 
apparition give vividness to description and stimulate 
conviction in the actual vision of the poet. There are 
likewise clauses and phrases of "primary apparition," 
Thus, in "Inferno" x., where Cavalcante di Cavalcanti's 
head appears above the edge of the tomb, 

" credo che /' era in ginocchie levata" 
" I believe he had risen on his knees," 

has no beauty in itself, but adds greatly to the veri- 

There are also epithets of " emotional apparition," 
transensuous, suggestive : thus in Mr Yeats' line : 

" Under a bitter black wind that blows from the left hand," 

Dante's colouring and qualities of the infernal air, 
although they are definitely symbolical and not in- 
definitely suggestive, foreshadow this sort of epithet. 
The modern symbolism is more vague, it is sometimes 
allegory in three dimensions instead of two, sometimes 
merely atmospheric suggestion. 


It is in the swift forms of comparison, however, that 
Dante sets much of his beauty. Thus : 

" dove II sol face" 
" where the sun is silent," 


" r aura morta." 
" the dead air." 

In this last the comparison fades imperceptibly into 
emotional suggestion. 

His vividness depends much on his comparison by 
simile to particular phenomena ; this we have already 
noted in the chapter on Arnaut Daniel ; thus Dante, 
following the Provengal, says, not "where a river pools 
itself," but 

" St come ad Arli, ove il Rodano stagna." 
" As at Aries, where the Rhone pools itself." 

Or when he is describing not a scene but a feehng, he 
makes such comparison as in the matchless simile to 
Glaucus, already quoted. 

Dante's temperament is austere, patrician; Shake- 
spear, as nature, combines refinement with profusion; 
it is as natural to compare Dante to a cathedral as it is to 
compare Shakespear to a forest ; yet Shakespear is not 
more enamoured of out-of-door beauty than is Dante. 
Their lands make them familiar with a different sort of 
out-of-doors. Shakespear shows his affection for this 
beauty as he knows it in — 

" — the morn, in russet mantle clad. 
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill " ; 

aqd Dante, when the hoar frost 

" paints her white sister's image on the ground." 


It is part of Dante's aristocracy that he conceded 
nothing to the world, or to opinion — 

" si come avesse /' inferno in gran dispetio" 
(" as if he held hell in great disdain ") ; 

he met his reverses ; Shakespear concedes, succeeds, 
and repents in one swift, bitter line : 

" I have made myself a motley to the view." 

Shakespear comes nearer to most men, partly from 
his habit of speaking from inside his characters instead 
of conversing with them. He seems more human, but 
only when we forget the intimate confession of the 
" Vita Nuova " or such lines of the " Commedia " as 

" col quale llfantolin corre alia mamma 
quaniP ha paura o quando egli e aflitto." 

" as the little child runs to its mother when it has fear, or when it 
is hurt." 

Dante has the advantage in points of pure sound ; 
his onomatopoeia is not a mere trick of imitating 
natural noises, but is a mastery in fitting the inarticu- 
late sound of a passage to the mood or to the quality 
of voice which expresses that mood or passion which 
the passage describes or expresses. Shakespear has 
a language less apt for this work in pure sound, but 
he understands the motion of words, or, if the term 
be permitted, the overtones and undertones of rhythm, 
and he uses them with a mastery which no one but 
Burns has come reasonably near to approaching. 
Other English poets master this part of the art 
occasionally, or as if by accident ; there is a fine example 
in a passage of Sturge Moore's " Defeat of the 
Amazons," where the spirit of his faun leaps and 
scurries, with the words beginning : 

" JM ! ahi ! ahi ! Laomedon." 


This government of speed is a very different thing 
from the surge and sway of the epic music where the 
smoother rhythm is so merged with the sound quality as 
to be almost inextricable. The two things compare 
almost as the rhythm of a drum compares to the rhythm 
(not the sound) of the violin or organ. Thus, the 
" surge and sway " are wonderful in Swinburne's first 
chorus in the " Atalanta " ; while the other quality of 
word motion is most easily distinguished in, though by 
no means confined to, such poems as Burns' " Birks o' 
Aberfeldy," where the actual sound-quality of the 
words contributes little or nothing to the effect, which 
is dependent solely on the arrangement of quantities 
{i.e. the lengths of syllables) and accent. It is not, 
as it might first seem, a question of vowel music as 
opposed to consonant music. 

For such as are interested in the question of sources, 
it may be well to write, once for all, that there is 
nothing particularly new in describing the journey of 
a living man through hell, or even of his translation 
into Paradise ; Arda Virap, in the Zoroastrian legend, 
was sent as ambassador, in the most accredited fashion, 
with full credentials he ascended into Paradise, and 
saw the pains of hell shortly afterwards. The 
description of such journeys may be regarded as a 
confirmed literary habit of the race. 

The question of Shakespear's debt to Dante and the 
Tuscan poets is not of vital importance. It is true that 
a line of Shakespear is often a finer expression of a 
Dantescan thought than any mere translator of Dante 
has hit upon, but nothing is more natural than that the 
two greatest poets of Christendom, holding up their 
mirrors to nature, should occasionally reflect the same 
detail. It is true that Shakespear's lines : 


" What is your substance, whereof are you made, 
That millions of strange shadows on you tend ? " 

seem like a marriage of words from Guido Orlandi's 
sonnet to Guido Cavalcanti, and from one of Cavalcanti's 
sonnets which I have quoted. 

Mascetta Caracci has written a thesis on " Shakespear 
e i classici Italani," multiplying instances. 

Early Tuscan sonnets are often very " Elizabethan," 
and the Spanish imitations of the Tuscans are often 
more so. Great poets seldom make bricks without 
straw ; they pile up all the excellences they can beg, 
borrow, or steal from their predecessors and contem- 
poraries, and then set their own inimitable light atop of 
the mountain. It seems unlikely that the author of 
" The Sonnets " should have been ignorant of the finest 
sonnets in the world, or that a man of Shakespear's 
literary discernment should have read Bandello and not 
the Italian masters. Shakespear knew of Gower, and 
Gower and Chaucer knew of Dante. As Shakespear 
wrote the finest poetry in English, it matters not one 
jot whether or no he plundered the Italian lyrists in his 
general sack of available literature. 

That Shakespear, as Dante, is the conscious master 
of his art is most patent from the manner in which he 
plays with his art in the sonnets, teasing, experi- 
menting, developing that technique which he so 
marvellously uses and so cunningly conceals in the 
later plays. To talk about " wood-notes wild " is sheer 

Did Shakespear know his Tuscan poetry directly or 
through some medium, through Petrarch, or through 
some Italianized Englishman ? Why did he not write a 
play on Francesa da Rimini ? There are a number of 
subjects for amusing speculation ; theories will be built 
from straws floating in the wind ; thus Francis Meres, 


when in 1598 he writes of Shakespear's "fine-filed 
phrase," may or may not have some half memory of 
Dante's '■'■ aniorosa lima,'" the "loving file" that had 
" polished his speech." 

Our knowledge of Dante and of Shakespear inter- 
acts ; intimate acquaintance with either breeds that 
discrimination which makes us more keenly appreciate 
the other. 

One might indefinitely continue the praise of Dante's 
excellence of technique and his splendours of detail ; 
but beneath these individual and separate delights is 
the great sub-surge of his truth and his sincerity : his 
work is of that sort of art which is a key to the deeper 
understanding of nature and the beauty of the world 
and of the spirit. From his descriptions of the aspects 
of nature I have already quoted the passage of the sun- 
light and the cloud shadows ; for the praise of that 
part of his worth which is fibre rather than surface, my 
mind is not yet ripe, nor is my pen skilled. 

Let these speak for me ; first, John Boccaccio. 

" To one who censured Ms Public Exposition of Dante 

" If Dante mourns, there wheresoe'er he be. 
That such high fancies of a soul so proud 
Should be kid open to the vulgar crowd, 
(As, touching my discourse, I'm told by thee,) 
This were my grievous pain ; and certainly 
My proper blame should not be disavow'd ; 
Though hereof somewhat, I declare aloud. 
Were due to others, not alone to me. 
False hopes, true poverty, and therewithal 
The blinded judgment of a host of friends. 
And their entreaties, made that I did thus. 
But of all this there is no gain at all 
Unto the thankless souls with whose base ends 
Nothing agrees that's great or generous." 


(Both sonnets as translated by Rossetti) 

- Inscription for a Portrait of B ante 

" Dante Alighieri, a dark oracle 
Of wisdom and of art I am, whose mind 
Has to my country such great gifts assign'd 
That men account my powers a miracle. 
My lofty fancy pass'd as low as hell, 
As high as heaven, secure and unconfined ; 
And in my noble book doth every kind 
Of earthly lore and heavenly doctrine dwell. 
Renowned Florence was my mother, — nay. 
Stepmother with me her piteous son. 
Through sin of cursed slander's tongue and tooth. 
Ravenna shelter'd me so cast away ; 
My body is with her, — my soul with One 
For whom no envy can make dim the truth." 

Thus John Boccaccio, and after him that monolith, 
Michael Agnolo Buonarotti, 

On Dante Alighieri 

" From heaven his spirit came, and robed in clay 

The realms of justice and of mercy trod. 

Then rose a living man to gaze on God, 

That he might make the truth as clear as day. 
For that pure star that brightened with his ray 

The undeserving nest where I was born. 

The whole wide world would be a prize to scorn ; 

None but his Maker can due guerdon pay. 
I speak of Dante, whose high work remains 

Unknown, unhonoured by that thankless brood. 

Who only to just men deny their wage. 
Were I but he ! Born for like lingering pains, 

Against his exile coupled with his good 

I'd gladly change the world's best heritage ! 

1 From " Translations of M. A. B.'s Sonnets," by J. A. Symmonds. 
Smith, Elder & Co. 


No tongue can tell of him what should be told, 
For on blind eyes his splendour shines too strong ; 
'Twere easier to blame those who wrought him wrong 
Than sound his least praise with a mouth of gold. 

He to explore the place of pain was bold. 

Then soared to God, to reach our souls by song ; 
The gates heaven oped to bear his feet along, 
Against his just desire his country rolled. 

Thankless I call her, and to her own pain 

The nurse of fell mischance ; for sign take this. 
That ever to the best she deals more scorn : 

Among a thousand proofs let one remain ; 

Though ne'er was fortune more unjust than his. 
His equal or his better ne'er was born. 

Note. — The translations of the " Commedia " used in this chapter 
are for the most part those of " The Temple Edition," the editors 
of which have been wisely content with rendering the sense of the 





Arnaut Daniel 
Guido Guincelli . 

1 180-1200 {circ.) 
born 1220 



1 304-1 374 


1 340-1400 
died 1408 


Michael Agnolo . 


Lope de Vega 

Shakespear . 

1431-after 1465 

born 1524 




The century between Dante and Villon brought into 
the poetry of northern Europe no element which was 
distinctly new. The plant of the Renaissance was 
growing, a plant which some say begins in Dante ; but 
Dante, I think, anticipates the Renaissance only as one 
year's harvest foreshadows the next year's spring. He 
is the culmination of one age rather than the beginning 
of the next ; he is like certain buildings at Verona, 
which show forth the splendour of the Middle Ages, 
untouched by any influence of the classic revival. 

In architecture, mediaeval work means line ; line, 
composition and design : Renaissance work means mass. 
The mediseval architect envied the spider his cobweb. 
The Renaissance architect sought to rival the mountain. 
They raised successively the temple of the spirit and 
the temple of the body. The analogy in literature is 
naturally inexact ; Dante, however, sought to hang his 
song from the absolute, the centre and source of light ; 
art since Dante has for the most part built solidly from 
the ground. 

General formulas of art criticism serve at best to 
suggest a train of thought, or a manner of examining 
the individual works of the period. Such formulas are 
not figures circumscribing the works of art, but points 
from which to compute their dimensions. 

The Renaissance is not a time, but a temperament. 
Petrarch and Boccaccio have it. To the art of poetry 
they bring nothing distinctive : Petrarch refines but de- 


energizes. In England, Gower had written pleasantly, 
and "Romance," the romance of the longer narratives, 
had come to full fruit in Chaucer. Where Dante is a 
crystallization of many medieval elements, his own 
intensity the cause of their cohesion, Chaucer comes 
as through a more gradual, gentler process, like some 
ultimate richer blossom on that bough which brought forth 
Beroul, Thomas, Marie, Crestien, Wace, and Gower. 
He is part, some will say, of the humanistic revolt. 
There was no humanistic revolt. Boccaccio and the 
rest but carry on a paganism which had never expired. 

After all these fine gentlemen, guardians of the 
Arthurian Graal, prophets of Rome's rejuvenation, and 
the rest, had been laid in their graves, there walked 
the gutters of Paris one Fran9ois Montcorbier, poet 
and gaol-bird, with no care whatever for the flowery 
traditions of mediaeval art, and no anxiety to revive the 
massive rhetoric of the Romans. Yet whatever seeds 
of the Renaissance there may have been in Dante, 
there were seeds or signs of a far more modern out- 
break in the rhymes of this Montcorbier, alias Villon. 

The minstrelsy of Provence is as the heart of Sir 
Blancatz, and the later lords of song, in England and 
in Tuscany, have eaten well of it. From Provence the 
Tuscans have learned pattern; the Elizabethans a cer- 
tain lyric quality ; Villon carries on another Proven9al 
tradition, that of unvarnished, intimate speech. I do 
not imply that Villon is directly, influenced by Provence, 
but that some of his notes and fashions had been 
already sounded in Provence. Thus the tone of some 
of Amaut Daniel's canzone ^ suggests the tone of some 
of Villon's verses ; even as the form of the Proven9al 
canzon had suggested the form of the north French 

1 Not those quoted in Chapter II. 


Villon's abuse finds precedent in the lower type of 
sirvente, with this distinction, that Villon at times says 
of himself what the Provengals said only of one another. 
For precedent of Villon's outspokenness one need not 
seek so far as Provence. The French mystery plays 
are not written in veiled words. To witness, this passage 
from a Crucifixion play, when an angel says to God 
the Father: 

" Pere kernel, vous avez tort 
E ben devetz avoir vergogne. 
Vostrefih Men amis est mort 
Evous dormez comme un ivrogne." 

" Father eternal, you are wrong 
And well should be shamed, 
Your well beloved son is dead 
And you sleep like a drunk." 

Villon's art exists because of Villon. There is in him 
no pretence of the man sacrificed to his labour. One 
may define him unsatisfactorily by a negative comparison 
with certain other poets, thus : Where Dante has 
boldness of imagination, Villon has the stubborn per- 
sistency of one whose gaze cannot be deflected from 
the actual fact before him : what he sees, he writes. 
Dante is in some ways one of the most personal of 
poets ; he holds up the mirror to nature, but he is 
himself that mirror. 

Villon never forgets his fascinating, revolting self. 
If, however, he sings the song of himself he is, thank 
God, free from that horrible air of rectitude with which 
Whitman rejoices in being Whitman. Villon's song is 
selfish through self-absorption; he does not, as Whitman, 
pretend to be conferring a philanthropic benefit on the 
race by recording his own self-complacency. Human 
misery is more stable than human dignity ; there is 
more intensity in the passion of cold, remorse, hunger. 


and the fetid damp of the mediaeval dungeon than in 
eating water melons. Villon is a voice of suffering, of 
mockery, of irrevocable fact ; Whitman is the voice of 
one who saith : 

" Lo, behold, I eat water melons. When I eat water melons 
the world eats water melons through me. 
When the world eats water melons, 
I partake of the world's water melons. 
The bugs. 
The worms. 
The negroes, etc., 
Eat water melons ; 
AU nature eats water melons. 
Those eidolons and particles of the Cosmos 
Which do not now partake of water melons 
Will at some future time partake of water melons. 
;,; PraisM be Allah ! " 

They call it optimism, and breadth of vision. There 
is, in the poetry of Frangois Villon, neither optimism 
nor breadth of vision. 

Villon is shameless. Whitman, having decided that 
it is disgraceful to be ashamed, rejoices in having 
attained nudity. 

Goethe, when the joys of taxidermy sufficed not to 
maintain his self-respect, was wont to rejoice that there 
was something noble and divine in being Kicnstler. The 
artist is an artist and therefore admirable, or noble, or 
something of that sort. If Villon ever discovered this 
pleasant mode of self-deception, he had sense enough 
not to say so in rhyme. In fact, Villon himself may be 
considered sufficient evidence seriously to damage this 
artist-consoling theory. 

Villon holds his unique place in literature because he 
is the only poet without illusions. There are desil- 
lusionnes, but they are different j Villon set forth with- 
out the fragile cargo. Villon never lies to himself ; he 


does not know much, but what he knows he knows : 
man is an animal, certain things he can feel ; there is 
much misery, man has a soul about which he knows 
little or nothing. Helen, Heloise and Joan are dead, and 
you will gather last year's snows before you find them. 
Thus the "Ballade of Dead Ladies" (Rossetti's 
translation) : 

" Tell me now in what hidden way is 

Lady Flora, the lovely Roman, 
Where is Hipparchia and where is Thai's, 

Neither of them the fairer woman, 
Where is Echo, beheld of no man. 

Only heard on river and mere. 
She whose beauty was more than human ? 

But where are the snows of yester-year ! 

And where are Beatris, Alys, Hermengarde, and 

" That good Joan whom Englishmen 
At Rouen doomed, and burned her there ! 
Mother of God, where are they, where ? 
But where are the snows of yester-year ! " 

Of his further knowledge, 

" I know a horse from a mule. 
And Beatrix from Bellet, 
I know the heresy of the Bohemians, 
I know son, valet and man. 
I know all things save myself alone." 

Or in the "Grand Testament," 

" Je suis pecheur,je le scay Men 
Pourtant Dieu ne veut pas ma mort." 

" I am a sinner, I know it well, 
However, God does not wish my death." 

Or in the Ballade quoted : 

" Je cognois mort qui nous consomme, 
Je cognois toutfors que moi mesme." 


" And I know Death that downs us all, 
I know all things save myself alone." 

It is not Villon's art, but his substance, that pertains. 
Where Dante is the supreme artist, Villon is incurious; 
he accepts the forms of verse as unquestioningly as he 
accepts the dogma and opinion of his time. If Dante 
reaches out of his time, and by rising above it escapes 
many of its limitations, Villon in some way speaks below 
the voice of his age's convention, and thereby outlasts it. 
He is utterly medieval, yet his poems mark the end 
of mediaeval literature. Dante strives constantly for a 
nobler state on earth. His greatness separates him 
from his time, and the ordinary reader from his work. 
The might of his imagination baffles the many. Villon 
is destitute of imagination; he is almost destitute of 
art; he has no literary ambition, no consciousness of 
the fame hovering over him ; he has some slight vanity 
in impressing his immediate audience, more in reaching 
the ear of Louis XL by a ballade — this last under 
pressure of grave necessity. 

Much of both the Lesser and the Greater Testaments 
is in no sense poetry ; the wit is of the crudest ; thief, 
murderer,^ pander, bully to a whore, he is honoured 
for a few score pages of unimaginative sincerity; he 
sings of things as they are. He dares to show himself. 
His depravity is not a pose cultivated for literary effect. 
He never makes the fatal mistake of glorifying his sin, 
of rejoicing in it, or of pretending to despise its opposite. 

" Ne voient pan qu'auxfenestres," 

is no weak moralizing on the spiritual benefits of 

^ This may be a little severe. Murder was not his habit ; we 
believe, however, that he killed one man at the least. 


The poignant stanzas in which this line occurs, are 
comparable only to Lamb's graver and more plaintive, 

" I have had playmates, I have had companions." ^ 


" Where are the gracious gallants 
That I beheld in times gone by. 
Singing so well, so well speaking, 
So pleasant in act and in word. 
Some are dead and stiiFened, 
Of them there is nothing more now. 
May they have rest, but in Paradise, 
And God save the rest of them. 

^ " I have had playmates, I have had companions 

In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days ; 
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces. 

I have been laughing, I have been carousing. 
Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies ; 
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces. 

I loved a Love once, fairest among women : 
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her — 
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces. 

I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man : 
Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly ; 
Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces. 

Ghost-like I paced round the haunts of my childhood, 
Earth seem'd a desert I was bound to traverse. 
Seeking to find the old familiar faces. 

Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother, 
Why wert not thou born in my father's dwelling ? 
So might we talk of the old familiar faces, 

How some they have died, and some they have left me. 
And some are taken from me ; all are departed ; 
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces." 

Charles Lame. 


And some are become 

God's mercy ! great lords and masters, 

And others beg all naked 

And see no bread, save in the windows ; 

Others have gone into the cloisters 

Of Celestin and of Chartreuse, 

Shod and hosed like fishers of oysters. 

Behold the divers state among them all." 

Villon paints himself, as Rembrandt painted his own 
hideous face ; his few poems drive themselves into one 
in a way unapproached by the delicate art of a Daniel 
or a Baudelaire. Villon makes excuses neither for God 
nor for himself; he does not rail at providence because 
its laws are not adjusted to punish all weaknesses except 
his own. There is, perhaps, no more poignant regret 
than that stanza in Le Grand Testament, 

" Je plaings le temps de ma jeunesse." . . . 

" I mourn the time of my youth. 
When I made merry more than another. 
Until the coming in of old age. 
Which has sealed me its departure. 
It is not gone on foot. 
Nor on horseback ; alas ! and how then ? 
Suddenly it has flown away. 
And has left me nothing worth. 
{Et ne m^a laisse quelque don). 

Gone it is, and I remain 

Poor of sense and of savoir. 

Sad, shattered, and more black than ripe 

Sans coin or rent or anything mine own." 

He recognizes the irrevocable, he blames no one 
but himself, he never wastes time in self-reproaches, 
recognizing himself as the result of irrevocable causes. 


" Necessity faict gens mesprendre 
Efaim saillir le hup des boys." 

" Necessity makes men run wry, 
And hunger drives the wolf from wood." 

He has the learning of the schools, or at least such 
smattering of it as would be expected from a brilliant, 
desultory auditor, but his wisdom is the wisdom of the 
gutter. The dramatic imagination is beyond him, yet 
having lived himself, he has no need to imagine what 
life is. His poems are gaunt as the " Poema del 
Cid " is gaunt ; they treat of actualities, they are un- 
tainted with fancy ; in " the Cid " death is death, war 
is war. In Villon filth is filth, crime is crime ; neither 
crime nor filth is gilded. They are not considered as 
strange delights and forbidden luxuries, accessible only 
to adventurous spirits. Passion he knows, and satiety 
he knows, and never does he forget their relation. 

He scarcely ever takes the trouble to write anything 
he does not actually feel. When he does, as in the 
prayer made for his mother, the Lament for Master 
Ythier's lost mistress, or the ballade for a young bride- 
groom, it is at the request of a particular person ; and 
the gaunt method in which he expresses his own feel- 
ings does not desert him. Even here the expression is 
that of such simple, general emotion that the verses can 
hardly be regarded as dramatic; one almost imagines 
Villon asking Ythier or the bridegroom what they want 
written, and then rhyming it for them. 

Thus this lay or rather rondeau which he bequeaths 
to Master Ythier who has lost his mistress : 

" Death, 'gainst thine harshness I appeal 
That hath torn my leman from me, 
Thou goest not yet contentedly 
Though of sorrow of thee none doth me heal. 


No power or might did she e'er wield, 
In life what harm e'er did she thee 
Ah, Death ! 

" Two we ! that with one heart did feel, 
If she is dead, how then, dividedly 
Shall I live on, sans life in me. 
Save as do statues 'neath thy seal 
Thou Death ! " 

{Par ccBur in the last line of the original, has no equi- 
valent in modern French or in English ; to dine " par 
coeur," by heart, is to dine on nothing.) 

The same tendencies are apparent in the following 
Ballade, that which Villon made at the request of his 
mother, "to be prayed to our lady." 

(I give here Stanzas I. and III. from Rossetti's 

" Lady of Heaven and Earth, and therewithal 
Crowned empress of the nether clefts of Hell,- 
I, thy poor Christian, on thy name do call. 
Commending me to thee, with thee to dwell, 
Albeit in nought I be commendable. 
But all mine undeserving may not mar 
Such mercies as thy sovereign mercies are ; 
Without the which (as true words testify) 
No soul can reach thy heaven so fair and far. 
Even in this faith I choose to live and die. 

A pitiful poor woman, shrunk and old, 

I am, and nothing learned in letter-lore. 

Within my parish-cloister I behold 

A painted Heaven where harps and lutes adore. 

And eke an Hell whose damned folk seethe full sore : 

One bringeth fear, the other joy to me. 


That joy, great goddess, make thou mine to be, — 
Thou of whom all must ask it even as I ; 
And that which faith desires, that let it see. 
For in this faith I choose to live and die." 

Another interesting translation of this poem is to be 
found among the poems of the late J. M. Synge. 

For the Ballade for the Bridegroom I refer to 
Payne or Swinburne. 

Villon is, if you will, dramatic in his "Regrets of the 
Belle Heaulmiere," but his own life was so nearly that 
of his wasted armouress, that his voice is at one with 
hers. Indeed his own 

"Je plains le temps de majeunesse" 

might almost be part of this Ballade (stanzas i, 5 and 
ID of Swinburne's translation). 

' Meseemeth I heard cry and groan 
That sweet who was the armourer's maid ; 
For her young years she made sore moan. 
And right upon this wise she said ; 
' Ah fierce old age with foul bald head 
To spoil fair things thou art over fain ; 
Who holdeth me ? Who ? Would God I were dead ! 
Would God I were well dead and slain ! 

And he died thirty years agone. 
I am old now, no sweet thing to see ; 
By God, though when I think thereon. 
And of that good glad time, woe's me, 
And stare upon my changed body 
Stark naked, that has been so sweet, 
Lean, wizen, like a small dry tree, 
I am nigh mad with the pain of it. 


So we make moan for the old sweet days, 
Poor old light women, two or three 
Squatting above the straw-fire's blaze. 
The bosom crushed against the knee. 
Like fagots on a heap we be, 
Round fires soon lit, soon quenched and done, 
And we were once so sweet, even we ! 
Thus fareth many and many an one.' " 

This Ballade is followed in the ' Testament ' by the 
Ballade of " La Belle Heaulraiere aux filles de joie." 

" Car vieilles ne cours ne estre 
Ne que monnoye qu'on descrie," 

" For old they have not course nor status 
More than hath money that's turned in," 

is the tune of it. 

In " La Grosse Margot " from " ce bourdel ou tenons 
nostre estat," Villon casts out the very dregs of his 
shame. But even here he is free from that putrescence 
which reeks through the baser poems of Martial. 

Many have attempted to follow Villon, mistaking a 
pose for his reality. These searchers for sensation, 
self-conscious sensualists and experimenters, have, I 
think, proved that the " taverns and the whores " are 
no more capable of producing poetry than are philosophy, 
culture, art, philology, noble character, conscientious 
effort, or any other panacea. If persistent effort and a 
desire to leave the world a beautiful heritage, were 
greatly availing, Ronsard, who is still under-rated, and 
Petrarch, who is not, would be among the highest 
masters. Villon's greatness is that he unconsciously 
proclaims man's divine right to be himself, the only one of 
the so-called "rights of man" which is not an artificial 
product. Villon is no theorist, he is an objective fact. 


He makes no apology — herein lies his strength ; Burns 
is weaker, because he is in harmony with doctrines 
that have been preached, and his ideas of equality are 
derivative. Villon never wrote anything so didactic in 
spirit as the " man's a man for a' that." He is scarcely 
affected by the thought of his time, because he scarcely 
thinks ; speculation, at any rate, is far from him. But 
I may be wrong here. If Villon speculates, the end of 
his speculation is Omar's age-old ending : 

" Come out by the same door wherein I went." 

" Rubiyat," xxvii. 

At any rate, Villon's actions are the result of his 
passions and his weaknesses. Nothing is "sicklied 
o'er with the pale cast of thought." 

As a type of debauchee he is eternal. He has sunk 
to the gutter, knowing life a little above it ; thus he is 
able to realize his condition, to see it objectively, 
instead of insensibly taking it for granted. 

Dante lives in his mind ; to him two blending 
thoughts give a music perceptible as two blending 
notes of a lute. He is in the real sense an idealist. 
He sings of true pleasures ; he sings as exactly as 
Villon ; they are admirably in agreement : Dante to 
the effect that there are supernormal pleasures, enjoy- 
able by man through the mind ; Villon to the effect 
that the lower pleasures lead to no satisfaction. 

" e ne m' a laisse quelque don" 

"Thenceforward was my vision mightier than the dis- 
course," writes the Italian ; and Dante had gone living 
through Hell, in no visionary sense. Villon lacked 
energy to clamber out. Dante had gone on, fainting, 
aided, erect in his own strength ; had gone on to sing 
of things more difficult. Villon's poetry seems, when 


one comes directly from the " Paradiso," more vital, 
more vivid ; but if Dante restrains himself, putting 
the laments in the mouths of tortured spirits, they are 
not the less poignant. He stands behind his characters,, 
of whom Villon might have made one. 

Before we are swept away by the intensity of this 
gamin of Paris, let us turn back to the words set in the 
mouth of Bertrans of Altafort : 

" Thus is the counterpass observed in me," 

or to the lament of her of Rimini. Whoever cares at 
all for the art will remember that the words of this 
lament sob as branches beaten by the wind : 

" nessun maggior dolore, 
che ricordarsi del tempo felue 
nella miseria ; e do sa' I tm dottore." 

The whole sound of the passage catches in the throat, 
and sobs. Dante is many men, and suffers as many. 
Villon cries out as one. He is a lurid canto of the 
" Inferno," written too late to be included in the 
original text. Yet had Dante been awaiting the execu- 
tion of that death sentence which was passed against 
him, although we might have had one of the most 
scornful denunciations of tyranny the world has ever 
known, we should have had no ballade of stark power 
to match that which Villon wrote, expecting presently 
to be hanged with five companions : 

" Frhes humains qui apres nous vivez." 

Stanza I. and Stanza II., 1. 1-4, in Swinburne's trans- 

" Men, brother men, that after us yet live, not your hearts too hard against us be ; 
For if some pity of us poor men ye give. 
The sooner God shall take of you pity. 


Here we are, five or six strung up, you see, 
And here the flesh that all too well we fed 
Bit by bit eaten and rotten, rent and shred. 
And we the bones grow dust and ash withal ; 
Let no man laugh at us discomforted. 
But pray to God that he forgive us all. 

If we call upon you, brothers, to forgive, 

You should not hold our prayer in scorn, though we 

Were slain by law ; ye know that all alive 

Have not wit alway to walk righteously." 

Dante's vision is real, because he saw it. Villon's 
verse is real, because he lived it; as Bertran de 
Born, as Arnaut Marvoil, as that mad poseur Vidal, he 
lived it. For these men life is in the press. No brew 
of books, no distillation of sources will match the tang 
of them. 

NoTi. — It is most surprising that the similarities between Villon's 
ballades of " Dead Ladies " and " Dead Lords " and " Las Coplas " of 
his Spanish contemporary, G. Manrique, have not been more gener- 
ally noted. 



The art of literature and the art of the theatre are 
neither identical nor concentric. A part of the art of 
poetry is included in the complete art of the drama. 
Words are the means of the art of poetry ; men 
and women moving and speaking are the means of 
drama. A play, to be a good play, must come over the 

A composition, so delicate that actual presentation of 
it must in its very nature spoil the illusion, is not 
drama. In a play, ordinary words can draw power 
from the actor; the words of poetry must depend 
upon themselves. A good play may, or may not, be 
literature or poetry. In a study of poetry, one is con- 
cerned only with such plays as happen to contain 
poetry ; in a study of literature, one is concerned only 
with such plays as may be enjoyably read. The aims 
of poetry and drama differ essentially in this : poetry 
presents itself to the individual, drama presents itself 
to a collection of individuals. Poetry also presents 
itself to any number of individuals, but it can make its 
appeal in private, seriatim. Drama must appeal to a 
number of individuals simultaneously. This requires 
no essential difference in their subject-matters, but it 
may require a very great difference in the manner of 

It cannot be understood too clearly that the first 
requirement of a play is that it hold the audience. If 
it does not succeed in this it may be a work of genius, or 



it may be, or contain a number of excellent things, but it 
is not a good play. Some of the means whereby a 
play holds its audience vary from age to age ; the 
greater part of them do not. The aesthetic author 
may complain that these means are mere trickery, but 
they are in reality the necessary limitations of the 
dramatic form. They are, for the most part, devices 
for arousing expectation, for maintaining suspense, or 
devices of surprise. They are, it is true, mechanical or 
ingenious, but so is technique of verse itself. 

Rhyme, for instance, is in a way mechanical, and it 
also arouses expectation — an expectation of the ear 
for repetition of sound. In the delayed rhyming of 
Daniel, we have a maintaining of suspense. In every 
very beautiful or unusual arrangement of words we 
have "denouement" — surprise. 

The so-called tricks of the stage are its rhymes and 
its syntax. They are, perhaps, more easily analysed 
than the subtler technique of lyric poetry, but they 
cannot be neglected. After these restrictions, or 
conventions, or laws of the drama have been mastered, 
the author can add his beauty and his literary excel- 
lence. But without these, his excellences are as far 
from being drama, as a set of disconnected, or 
wrongly connected wheels and valves, are from being 
an engine. All great plays consist of this perfected 
mechanism, plus poetry, or philosophy, or some further 
excellence which is of enduring interest. 

Because it is very difficult to write good poetry, and 
because the dramatist has so many other means at his 
command, he usually relapses into inferior poetry or 
neglects it altogether. When the paraphernalia of the 
stage was less complicated, this neglect was less easy. 

The sources of English drama have been traced by 
Chambers in his " History of the Mediseval Stage," to 


the satisfaction of everyone. In Spain the sources anc 
prime influences of the drama were : the church cere- 
monies, the elaborate services for Christmas and Easter, 
which result in the divers sorts of religious plays, 
saints' plays, and the like ; the dialogue forms of 
the Troubadour poetry, developing in has, and '■'■en- 
tremes " or skits ; and later, the effect of the travelling 
Italian company of one Ganasa, who brought the 
" Comedia del Arte " into Spain. 

In this " Comedia del Arte " one finds the art of 
drama, the art of the stage; a complete art, as yet 
unalloyed by any admixture of the literary art. The 
comedians chose their subject; and each man for him- 
self, given some rough plan, worked out his own 
salvation — to wit, the speeches of the character he 
represented. That is to say, you had a company of 
actor-authors, making plays as they spoke them. 
Hamlet's " O reform it altogether, and let those that 
play your clowns speak no more than is set down for 
them" (iii. 2), shows that the effects of this custom 
lasted in England until Shakespear's time, at least in 
connection with " character " parts. 

According to Lope de Vega, "comedies" in Spain 
are no older than Rueda. If one is to quibble over 
origins, one must name Gomez Manrique (141 2-91) as 
author of liturgical drama of the simplest sort. He 
was not the originator, merely a first author whose 
name we know; and Juan del Encina (1468-1534) for 
"eclogas" or "skits." 

"Calisto and Meliba" (the "Celestina") was 
published 1499 ; and is probably by Fernando de Rojas. 
It is a novel in dialogue of twenty-two acts, un- 

The Portuguese, Gil Vincente, lived from 1470- 
1540; it is not known that his works were ever 


played in Spain. But Lope de Rueda (1558 circa), 
gold-beater, actor-manager, and playwright, began the 

Whatever may be said to the credit of these 
originators, there is no interest except for the special 
student in any Spanish plays earlier than those of 
Lope de Vega,i and Lope certainly found his stage in a 
much more rudimentary condition than Shakespear 
found the stage of England. Whatever be the intrinsic 
merit of Lope's work, this much is certain : he gave 
/ Spain her dramatic literature, and from Spain Europe 
derived her modern theatre. In his admirable essay on 
Lope, Fitz-Maurice Kelly says : " Schiller and Goethe 
combined, failed to create a national theatre at Weimar ; 
no one but Lope could have succeeded in creating a 
national theatre at Madrid." 

Shakespear is a consummation ; nothing that is based 
on Shakespear excels him. Lope is a huge inception ; 
Calderon and Tirso de Molina, Alarcon, De Castro, 
have made their enduring reputations solely by finishing 
what Lope had neglected to bring to perfection. They 
may excel him in careful workmanship, never in dramatic 
energy. When I say that Lope's plays are the first 
which are of general interest, I mean that he is the first 
who, having mastered the machinery of the drama, 
added to his plays those excellences which give to his 
works some enduring interest. 

Lope was born 1562, led a varied, interesting life, 
which is best told by H. A. Rennert in his "Life of 
Lope de Vega." He wrote a multitude of miscellaneous 
works, and from fifteen hundred to two thousand plays, 

1 With the possible exception of one or two plays of Torres 
Naharro, born before their due time. I make this exception on the 
good authority of Mr Fitz-Maurice Kelly, as I have not read the 


of which about four hundred remain to us. Some of the 
plays are still as fresh and as actable as on the day they 
were written. Considering the haste of their composi- 
tion, it is not remarkable that many others possess 
merely antiquarian interest. Montalban testifies to 
Lope's having written fifteen acts in fifteen consecutive 
days, and many of the plays were probably composed 
within twenty-four hours. 

Lope is bound to the Middle Ages much more closely 
than are the Elizabethans by reason of his religious 
plays, a form of art practically uninfluenced by the 
Renaissance, and already out of fashion in London. 
Such plays were greatly in demand in Lope's time, and 
for long after, at Madrid. They attain their highest 
development at the hands of Calderon. Lope's religious 
plays scarcely belong to world literature, and it is not 
on their account that one seeks to resurrect the damaged 
shade of their author. 

From my scant knowledge of the English religious 
plays, I should say that they are more vigorous than 
those written in Spanish; this does not mean that 
Lope's obras santos are without interest, and "El 
Serafin Humano," his dramatization of the "Fioretti" 
of St Francis is certainly entertaining. 

In the opening scenes of the play we find Francisco, 
an over-generous young man, engaged in a flirtation 
with certain ladies of no great dignity. Say these ladies 
among themselves : " Ah, this is a new cock-sparrow ; 
this will be easy." The ladies' "escudero," or serving- 
man, proceeds to "work " Francisco for inordinate tips. 
The lower action runs its course. Francisco gives his 
clothes to a beggar, and sees a vision ; here the piety 
of the play begins. Francisco takes the cross; a 
" voice " tells him to give up the crusade, that he must 
fight a better battle where he is ; and in this atmosphere 


of voices and visions the play proceeds, ending in 
Brother Gil's vision of the " holy tree." 

If Lope's cycle of historical plays do not match 
Shakespear's cycle of the English kings, it is quite 
certain that they can be compared to nothing else. 
From the opening cry in " Amistad Pagada" : 

" Al arma, al arma capitanes fuertes, 
Al arma capitanes valerosos" 

through the sequence of the plays overflowing the 
five volumes (vii. to xi.) of Pelayo's huge edition, the 
spirit of Spain and the spirit of the " romanceros " is 
set loose upon the boards. It is of "bellicosa Espana," 
more invincible than " Libia fiera," to quote the Roman 
consul Andronius in " Amistad Pagada," and of Leon, 
" already conquered, its walls razed to the ground, 
coming furious from the mountains." 

There is about the cycle no effect of pageantry or of 
parade ; it is a stream of swift-moving men, intent on 
action. The scope of the cycle may be judged from 
the following titles : " King Vamba," " The Last Goth," 
"The Deeds of Bernardo del Carpio's Youth," "Fernan 
Gonzalez," " El Nuevo mondo descubier por Cristobal 
Colon." This last is, I believe, the finest literary pre- 
sentation of Columbus known to exist. It is noble and 
human, and there is admirable drawing in the scene 
where Columbus is mocked by the King of Portugal. 
The further main action runs as follows : — Bartolomeo 
brings the news of England's refusal to finance the 
venture. " Imagination " appears, after the manner of 
the Greek deus ex machina ; and there is a play within 
the play, a little "morality" of Providence, Idolatry, 
and Christian religion. Columbus finally gets an 
audience with King Ferdinand. Fragments of the 
dialogue are as follows : 


Colon. The conquest of Granada brought to happy end, 
Now is the time to gain the world. 

The crux ? 

Lord, money, the money is the all, 

The master and the north and the ship's track. 

The way, the intellect, the toil, the power. 

Is the foundation and the friend most sure. 

The King. War with Granada has cost me 

A sum, which you, perchance, may know. 

But the money is finally provided. 

Act II. opens with the mutiny on shipboard. The 
eloquence of the strike leaders is of the sort one may 
hear at Marble Arch on any summer evening : 

First Mutineer. Arrogant capitan 
Of a band deceived. 
Who in your cause 
Are nearer unto death 
Than to the land ye seek. 
Whereto, through thousand thousands 
Of leagues and of oppressions, 
You drag them o'er 
A thousand deaths to feed 
The fishes of such distant seas. 
Where's this new world ? 
O maker of humbugs, 

double of Prometheus, 
What of these dry presages 
Is not this all high sea I 
What of your unseen land. 
Your phantom conquest ? 

1 ask no argosies. 

Let go your boughs of gold 
And give us barley beards 
So they be dry. 

The other mutineers continue with ridicule and sar- 
casm. Frey Buyl saves Columbus, and land is sighted. 
The third act is of the triumphant return. 


" Los novios de Hornachuelos " (an incident in the 
reign of Henry III.) contains one of the tensest scenes 
of all romantic drama ; the greater part of this play is 
delightful comedy. Act I. sc. i : 

Mendo (servant). Do you not fear the king ? 

Lope Melindez. The power of the king is not thus great. 

My whim serves me for law. 

There's no king else for me. 

Lope Melindez and none other 

Is king in Estremadura. 

If Henry gain to rule, 

Castile is wide. 
Mendo. You speak notable madness. 

Doth not the whole wide world 

Tremble for Henry Third, 

That sickly one 

Whose valour's past belief {feregrino). 

Melindez threatens his squire, and Mendo replies : 
"Those who must please on all occasions must be 
chameleons, for they must clothe themselves and seem 
their master's colours." 

From which lines we learn that the king is an invalid, 
that Lope Melindez, "the wolf" of Estremadura, is a 
braggart and rebel, and that his squire is a philosopher 
in fustian. 

Continuing, we find that Melindez has in him " such 
might of love that he is aifrighted of it " ; that there is 
a gentlewoman called for her beauty the Star of Estre- 
madura, " Estrella de Estremadura," who is " the cipher 
of all human beauty." [It is always diverting to 
notice the manner in which Shakespear and Lope 
habitually boil down the similes of love into epigram- 
matic metaphor."] 

Next a servant announces : " The King-at-Arms of 
the King," with a letter. 

Melindez receives him, and says he will reply at 


leisure. The King-at-Arms replies that the King 
demands an immediate answer : 

MeRndez. Ah ! punctual fellows, 

The Kings-at-Arms ! 
King-at-Arms. Henry 

Doth thee no small honour 

When for Ambassador 

He sendeth such an one as I. 

We Kings-at-Arms 

Move on no lesser service 

Than to bear challenges 

To Emperors or Kings. 
Melindez.. The King defies me, then ! 

The King-at-Arms replies that the King challenges 
only equals. The letter is a summons for Melindez 
to present himself at Court with four servants and 
no more. 

Melindez. Oh, Mendo 
I'm for throwing 
This King-at-Arms from a 
Balcony, into the castle moat. 
He becomes too loquacious. 

[Melindez, sits. The King-at-Arms sits. 

Melindez refuses to obey the summons, makes a long 
speech to the effect that from his castle, which beholds 
the sun's birth, he sees no land which hath other lord 
than himself, and that he has arms for four thousand. 
After having disburdened himself, he becomes polite, 
but the King-at-Arms will neither rest nor eat. 

Melindez. Heaven go with you. 
King-at-Arms. The King will take satisfaction. 
Melindez. Sword to sword, let's see 
Who's vassal and who's King ! 

\Exit King-at-Arms. 
Melindez. I'm for Hornachuelos. 

Scene 2 is at Hornachuelos. Estrella enters, and 
her character is in part shown by her attire. 


("Enter Estrella, with javelin, sword, dagger, and 
plumed sombrero.") 

This charming gentlewoman is marrying oiF a couple 
of her vassals tenant who have not the slightest desire 
to be so united. The manner of their unwillingness 
may be here gathered : 

("They take hands without turning round, and 
Mariana gives Berueco a kick which makes him roll.") 
Then Mariana : 

I'll give you such a blow 
As will make you spit 
Teeth for two days. 

The act ends with a speech of Estrella's : 

Lope Melindez, if love is a flame. 
Then am I snow frozen in the Alps. 

In the beginning of the second act the King sees 
Estrella, and she falls in love with him. The King-at- 
Arms has delivered Melindez' answer to the King, who 
rides to Melindez' castle. Then comes the great scene, 
the duel between two kinds of strength, it is Lope's 
thesis for right of will and personality. 

Enter servant. 
Three horses with riders 
Who would speak with you ; 
One has entered ! 
Melindez.. Great freedom, by God ! 

Enter King Henry III. alone. 
Henry III. Which of the two 

Calls himself Melindez, 

I have wished to know him. 
MeRndez. I call myself Melindez. 
Henry III. I have a certain business 

Of which I come to speak with you, 

Because I love you. 

It is of importance 

That we be alone. 


Melindez. Leave us. [Exit servants. 

Henry. Fasten the door. 
Melindez. How fastidious we are ! 

{^presumably after locking it) 

It is locked. 
Henry. Take this chair, to please me. 
Melindez. I sit. 
Henry. Then listen. 

Melinde%. I already listen, 

And with wonder. 
Henry. El enfermo rey Enrique 

(The sickly King Henry). 

The speech is too long to quote in full. It summarizes 
the King's reign, begun at the age of fourteen, fraught 
with all difficulty. It tells of a kingdom set to rights and 
order drawn from civic chaos, the purport being : such 
has been my life, such have been its trials, who are you, 
Melindez, to stand against me, who to jeopardize the wel- 
fare of the kingdom by making it necessary for me to 
leave it in the hands of subordinates ? The speech ends: 

Henry. . . . Lope Melindez, I am 

\The King here rises from his chair and grasps his 
sword. Lope removes his hat. 
Enrique, alone we are. 
Draw your sword ! for I would 
Know between you and me. 
Being in your house. 
The two of us in this locked room. 
Who in Castile deserves 
To be king, and who 
Wolf-vassal of Estremadura. 
Show yourself now to me 
Haughty and valorous, 
Since you boast so much 
In my absence. Come ! 
For my heart is sound 
Though my body be sickly, 
And my heart spurts the Spanish blood 
Of the descendants of Pelayo ! 


Mel%nde%. My Lord, no more. 

Your face without knowing you gives terror. 
Mad have I been. 
Blind I went. 
Pardon ! Senor 

If I can please you with tears and surrender. 
You have my arms crossed. 
My steel at your feet. 
And my lips also. 
\He casts hts sword at the kin^s feet and kisses the ground. 
[Henry sets his foot upon Melindez' head. 

Henry. Lope Melindez, thus are humbled the gallant necks 
of haughty vassals. 
\The king trembles with the chill of the quartian ague. He walks. 

Chance has brought on 

The Quartian, have you 

A bed near. 
Melindez. In the room below 

The floor you tread. 

But it's small sphere 

For such a sovran king. 
Henry. Open 

And tell my servants 

To come undress me. 

For by my trusted valour 

I would pass the night 

In your house. 
Melindez. Not in vain 

Do the Castillians tremble at you, 

O Enrique, terror of the world. 


In the third act we return to comedy. The King 
refuses to marrjr Estrella, saying among other things 
that he is an invalid. Estrella and Melindez are 
ordered to marry each other, and the low life troubles 
of Berueco and Mariana are travestied in the higher 
action. Berueco and Mariana have come to blows, 
Estrella and Melindez shoot across the stage play- 
ing the same game with swords, Melindez, thinking 


the King has tricked him and Estrella, naturally resenting 
the imputation. The King unravels the entanglement 
by divorcing the peasants and promising Estrella 
another husband. 

Another delightful play of this historico-romantic sort is 
" Las Almenas de Toro." It has an additional interest for 
us in that Ruy Diaz appears in it, the time being slightly 
earlier than that treated in the " Poema del Cid." 

The play in brief outline is as follows : 

King Ferdinand had divided his kingdom at his death, 
leaving the cities Toro and Zamora to his daughters, 
Urraca and Elvira. The new King, Sancho, is not 
content. At the opening of the play we find the King, 
the Cid, and the Conde Ancures before the gates of 
Toro, which Elvira has closed through fear of her 
brother. The Cid advises the King to retire and 
return unarmed. He advises the King to let the 
sisters keep their cities. The King rejects this counsel, 
and the Cid is sent forward as ambassador. 

Elvira comes forth upon the city wall, and replies 
with delightful irony to the King's proposition that she 
become a nun. 

Elvira. Tell him, my Cid, 

That I have turned Toro into a cloister 
(Suffice it to see that the gate is well locked). 
It is unfitting that a cloister 
Be opened to a secular person. 

The King sees his sister on the battlements, and, 

without knowing who she is, falls in love with her. 

Kisg. On the battlements of Toro 
There passed a damozel, or 
To speak more truly 
'Twas the sun's self passed us, 
Fair the form and light the passing. 


For her whom I saw on the wall, that subtlety 
wherewith above astronomy painteth her divers 
sights upon the azure mantle of the sky, hath 
made me such that I believe many imagined 
things should be true. 

The Cid tells him that it is his sister. 

King. An ill flame be kindled in her ! 

Pastoral action is brought into the play as relief, 
" contra el arte," as Lope says in his preface. 

King Sancho attacks Toro and is repulsed. At the 
beginning of the second act Bellido Dolfos begins to 
plot. Then, under cover of night (a purely imaginary 
night) two soldiers with guitars come forth on the 
battlements. Lope is constantly opposed to new- 
fangled scenery and constantly scenic in imagination. 
Here the soldiers singing while the siege is on is 
charming realism. 

Dolfos, with a thousand men, approaches and pre- 
tends to be Diego Ordonez with relief from Zamora. 
The ruse succeeds, the town is taken, and Elvira flees. 

Dolfos, who had been promised the king's sister in 
marriage if he took the town, is jealous, and says that 
the King, or Ancures, or the Cid, has hidden Elvira to 
cheat him and prevent her marrying below her station. 
In the meantime the pastoral action runs its course. 
The Duque de Borgona, travelling incognito, meets 
with Elvira, who has disguised herself in country 
clothing. The people, despite the improbability of the 
minor entanglement, are convincingly drawn. 

Bellido Dolfos finally murders King Sancho. Toro 
declares for his brother Alfonso,^ but Elvira returns, 
and the town receives her in triumph. 

1 This is Alfonso " el de Leon," with whom we are familiar in the 
" Poema." 


" La Estrella de Sevilla " is usually listed as a play of 
the Cloak and Sword. It is also a problem play of 
advanced disposition. The question set is this : Can a 
woman marry the man she loves if he have killed her 
brother, who was his friend? The King is unjustly 
angered with Butos Tabera, the brother, and secretly 
orders Sancho Ortiz to slay him. Ortiz is bound in 
duty and honour to obey his King. Lope decides that 
the marriage is impossible. The handling of royalty 
in this play is most interesting. The King, Sancho el 
bravo, is a man subject to the passions, but the incentive 
to connect evil desire with action comes always from 
the courtier Arias, thus the evil proceeds, not from the 
King, but through him. 

In reading a play of Lope's it is always worth while 
to notice which character precipitates the action. Some- 
times the entire movement is projected by the gracioso.' 
In this play Ortiz' serving-man is used solely for comic 
relief, and with a fine precision. His role is very short ; 
he appears only about eight times, and each time at the 
exact moment when the tragic strain begins to oppress 
the audience. Almost imperceptibly he fades out of 
the play. Lope is past-master of " relief," and here it 
serves but to keep the audience sensitive to the tragic, 

When Ortiz is arrested for murder, he refuses to 
divulge the cause, and the King is forced to confess 
that the death is by his order. 

Estrella pardons Ortiz, but will not marry him. The 
dignity of this conclusion is sufficient refutation of 
those who say that Lope wrote nothing but melodrama, 
and to please the groundlings. 

Three of Lope's surviving plays accord us opportunity 
for direct comparison with the works of his English 


The first is " Castelvines y Monteses," based on 
Bandello's novel of "Romeo and Julietta," and the 
second, "La Nueva Ira de Dios y Gran Tamorlan 
de Persia." 

The construction of this play is perhaps more skilful 
than that of Marlowe's " Tamberlaine." One misses, I 
think, the sense of Marlowe's unbridled personality 
moving behind the words ; yet there is a tense vigour 
of phrase in this play of Lope's, and more lines than 
one wherethrough Marlowe himself might have poured 
his turbulence of spirit : 

Thus Tamorlan : 

" Call me the crooked iron. 
Lame am I and mighty ! " 

And again : 

" El mundo mi viene estrecho" 
" The world groweth narrow for me." 

" I've to make me a city 
Of gold and silver, and my house of the bodies of kings, 
Be they rocks of valour." 

In the first act we find Bayaceto, the Grand Turk, in 
love with Aurelia, daughter of the Greek emperor. 

Lope naturally shows us El Gran Turco carrying 
on his courtship in propria persona ; strolling in the 
emperor's garden in the cool of the day he is taken 
captive. This imparts a characteristic briskness to the 
opening scenes of the play. Bayaceto proclaims himself, 
and is accepted by the Emperor. The betrothal takes 
place with ceremony. 

Tamorlan is increasing in power. Lelia Eleazara, a 
Turkish lady in love with Bayaceto, curses him at his 
betrothal. Bayaceto boasts to Aurelia that to please 


her, he will go out to conquer the world.^ News of 
Tamorlan is brought, and the act closes. 

Act II. (sound drums, and in form of squadrons there 
go forth by one door half the company clad in skins, 
Tamorlan behind them; and by the other door the 
other half, clad as Moors, Bayaceto behind them). 

Tamorlan. I am the Tamorlan, 
I am the celestial wrath, 
I am the burning ray, 
Cause of death and dismay 
To whomso looketh upon me 
In mine anger. 

Hijo de mi mismo y de mis hechos." 
Son of myself and of my deed." 
Bayaceto is defeated in battle and taken prisoner. 
Vanse (exit). 

Scene 2. Presumably the place of the emperor. 
Aurdia, in soliloquy — 

Aurelia. Presages sad, how now 
Do ye ill-treat me. 
Meseems ye do announce 
Mine end with bale and grief 
Unto my new-sprung life ; 
Grant comfort, ye, 
Unless my death be fated 
For this day. 
So long the fray ! 

Aliatar brings news of the battle, with this fine 

description : 

" One sea, faii" April 
Mirroring the sky 
With plumes and pennons 
And resplendent arms." 

1 The passage presumably corrresponds to Marlowe's 
" To entertain devine Zenocrite " 
and falls below it. 


Then, Aurelia, on hearing the outcome, 

" No time is this for weeping. On ! 
Reform our host. 
Call from the farms 
The aged ! On to Belaquia. 
Home, lives, and goods 
To bloody smoke be turned. 
Till one flame lap the vale 
That saw the birth 
Of this vile Tamorlan, . . ." 

Then comes out Elizara, clothed as a madman, and 
Ozman. Elizara wishes to free Bayaceto by going to 
Tamorlan disguised as a buffoon. 

The next scene shows Tamorlan mocking Bayaceto, 
who is prisoned in a cage. Elizara enters ; then enter 
the ambassadors from twenty-nine kings, wishing to 
ransom Bayaceto : they are refused. 

Act III., Tamorlan is overthrown and dies. Elizara 
becomes a Christian nun. 

The play here follows the usual lines of the plays 
of Spanish and Moorish contest, or the Chan9on de 
Roland, for that matter. This sort of conquest play 
is, of course, no longer suitable for the stage. 

Lope's work differs fi-om Shakespear's in that it faces 
in two directions : thus, this " Tamorlan " is a last 
exhalation of that spirit which produced the Cantares 
de Gesta. The saints' plays are a transference to the 
stage of a literary form which had been long popular. 
The Spanish historical plays are far more vital than 
either of these, but their roots are in the older ballades 
and romances. (The term romance is applied in 
Spanish to a particular form of short narrative poem.) 
The plays of Lope, which are prophetic of the future 
stage, are the plays of the "cloak and sword." The 
best of these are as fresh and playable to-day as they 


were in 1600. It is on this pattern that Beaumarchais 
has written his " Barber of Seville," and Mr Shaw his 
"Arms and the Man." It is true that Mr Shaw has 
introduced chocolate creams, and electric bells in 
Bulgaria, and certain other minor details, but the stock 
situations and the sprightly spirit of impertinence date 
at least from Lope. The most diverting proof of this is 
"£/ Desprecio Agradecido" which might have been 
written — bar certain vagaries of chronos — ^by Bernard 
Shaw in collaboration with Joachim du Bellay The 
action begins with characteristic swiftness. 


Don Bernardo (from Seville). 
Sancho, his servant. 

LlSARDA.I . ^ 

„ ' J- sisters. 


Ines, their maid. 
LuciNDo, their brother. 
Don Alexandro, their father. 
Mendo, servant of this family. 
Octavio, betrothed to Lisarda. 

Acta Prima. 

{Come forth Bernardo and Sancho, with drawn swords 
and bucklers.) 

Bernardo. What a rotten jump ! 

Sancho. The walls vyere high. 

Bernardo. I should have thought you would have leapt the better, 
since you were the more afraid. 

Sancho. Who isn't afraid of the law, and we just leavin' a man 
dead I 

Bernardo. Carelessness, I admit. Let who lives, live keenly. It's 
a fine house we've come into. 

Sancho. I'm flayed entirely. The wall's cost me blood. 

Bernardo. In the darkness I can see no more than that this is a 

Sancho. And what are we going to do about it ? 

Bernardo. To get out, Sancho, is what I should wish to do. 


Sancho. If they hear us, they'll take us for thieves. 

Bernardo. Zeal comes to men in straitened circumstance. 

Sancko. It's the devil ever made us leave Seville ! 

Bernardo. The parlour, shall we go in ? 

Sancko. Yes. 

Bernardo. Women speak. 

Sancho. Notice that they say they are going to bed. 

Bernardo. But what shall we do ? 

Sancho. We shall see what they are, from behind this hanging. 

Twenty-eight lines have carried us thus far. 
The shifting of the embarrassment indicated in the 
next to the last line is as keen as it is characteristic. 
Come forth Lisarda, Florela, Ines, and ladies. 

Lisarda. Put the light on this table, and show that tray. Take off 
these roses, for I don't want them to wither. 

Florela. How dull Octavio was ! 

Lisarda. There is nothing that bores one so much as a relative 
ready to be a husband and not a lover. 

Florela. Take this chain, Ines. . . . 

And so on until 

{Sancho' 5 buckler falls.") 

Lisarda. Good Lord ! what noise is this \ 
Florela. What fell ? 
Ines. Don't be afraid. 
Lisarda. Lock the door, Ines. 
Ines. Which one \ 

Lisarda. That which opens into the garden. 
Ines. It is open. 

Lisarda. Good care you take (of us) ! 
Ines. We used to lock it later than this. 

Lisarda. Apologize, and get to work. Take this light, look quickly. 
What fell ? 

Ines. What is this ? 

Lisarda. How ? 

Ines. This buckler here ! 

Lisarda. My brother's guard would be like it. 

Ines. Yes ! And since when have the curtains worn shoes ? 

Lisarda. Jesus mil veces ! Thieves ! 


Bernardo comes out, and with eloquent apologies 
casts himself on their mercy. Lope does justice to the 
delicate situation. Finally Lisarda says, "Ines, lock 
them both in this room, and bring me the key " ; and 
then follows a charming bit of impertinence that even 
G. B. S. has not outdone. 

Bernardo. Ines, I shall not sleep. 

Ines. Can you do with this light and a book ? 

Bernardo. Depends on the book. 

Ines. Part 26 of Lope. 

Bernardo. Bah ! supposititious works printed with his name on 'em. 

The further entanglement of the comedy is delightful. 
I have in part explained the characters in the list of 
dramatis persona. 

Bernardo has come from Seville with a letter for 
Octavio, whose cousin, Bernardo's brother, is about to 
marry. Octavio hears voices in Lisarda's house on the 
night of Bernardo's adventure, and is filled with 
jealousy. When Bernardo on leaving delivers his 
letter and narrates his strange adventures, speaking of 
the lovely lady and his departure, he says, in Lope's 
inimitable Spanish : 

" Salt, no se si dtga enamorado, 
Pero olvidado del amor pasado." 

" I came out, I do not know that one would say, in love. 
But forgetful of past love." 


" Not enamoured, but forgetful of past enamourment." 

The cadence and rhyme of the Spanish gives it a 
certain sauvity which I cannot reproduce. 

Nothing gives less idea of a play than an outline of 
its plot: the feelings of Octavio during Bernardo's 
narration can be readily guessed at, and Lope well 
displays them. 


Both sisters fall in love with Bernardo, and the 
scene between them reminds one of a similar encounter 
in Wilde's " Importance of Being Earnest." 

The fact that women were at this time, contrary to 
the English custom, permitted on the Spanish stage ; and 
Lope's greater familiarity with a sex, which he married 
frequently and with varying degrees of formality, 
accounts for a fuller development of the feminine roles 
than one finds in the contemporary English plays. 
Lope is no mere wit and juggler. Lisarda's speech, 
when her love for Bernardo seems wholly thwarted 
by circumstance, brings into the play that poetry 
which is never far from the pen of "the Phoenix 
of Spain." 

The following translation is appalling in its crudity. 
Lisarda is walking in the garden where Bernardo had 
entered the night before : 

" Flowers of this garden 
Where entered Don Bernardo 
On whom I look, a sunflower 
On the sun that is my doom ; 
Rose, carnation, jasmine. 
That with a life securer 
Take joy in your swift beauty 
Tho' ye make in one same day 
Your green sepulchres 
Of the cradles you were born in ; 
Yet would I speak with you. 
Since my joy found beginning 
And ending in one day. 
Whence took it birth and death. 
And I await like ending. 
A flower I was as ye, 
I was born as ye are born. 
And if ye know not rightly 
That ye hold your life but lightly. 
Learn, O flowers, of me. 


The light of all your colours. 

And the pomp of all your leaves, 

The blue, the white, the ruddy. 

Paint loves and jealousies. 

For this, O flowers, ye pass away. 

Counsel I give and example. 

For yesterday I was, what I am not to-day. 

And if to-day I am not what I was yesterday 

Now may ye learn from me. 

What things do pass away 

With the passing of one day. 

As ye are, I was certain 

That my fair hope would flower. 

But lo ! love's blossoms alway 

Bring forth uncertain fruit. 

Aspic living, amor hidden — 

Nay, I learnt it not from you — 

This killed and said to me : 

Whoso look on me now and find me 

Changed so, would not believe 

The marvel that I was, but yesterday. 

Be ye with colours lovely 

As those that ye saw love in. 

With the perfumed exhalations 

That are comets of the flower. 

And O, ye easy splendours, 

That I stand invoking. 

If I be marvellous to-day. 

Consider what yesterday gave shadow 

To the sun, with what I was 

Who to-day am not my shadow even." 

The play winds on through the comic labyrinths. 
The man whom Bernardo killed for following his 
former flame from Seville, turns out not to have been 
killed, but appears as Lucindo, Lisarda's brother. He 
and his iather try to marry Bernardo to the wrong 
sister: the marriage of Lisarda to Octavio seems 
inevitable. Sancho and Mendo, in their love for Ines, 
parody the main action. The high-flown language of 


the times' gallantry is mixed with Sancho's cynical 
/ matter-of-fact humour. Lope's graciosos are often 
■without a sense of humour ; at such times their remarks 
are usually unconscious, are humorous because of 
their position in the play : the position of the 
gracioso in Lope's plays is that occupied by Sancho 
Panza in "Don Quixote." The chauffeur in "Man 
and Superman " retains some of the gracioso^s functions. 
It is part of Lope's mastery of theatrical technique that 
he seems to whisper privately to each member of his 
audience, "What fools are the rest! But you and / 
see the thing in its true colours." Thus, to the young 
romantic, he seems to say, " Behold this gallant, whose 
nobility and ideals are so misunderstood by his vulgar 
serving-man " ; and to the gracioso in the audience he 
says, "This ' high falutin" romance, these lofty ideals, 
this code of honour ! bah ! what nonsense it is ! " It 
is flattery, of course, not the subtlest, but practical 
flattery, harnessed to Lope's theatrical purpose. 

Despite their number, Lope's plays are not filled 
with wooden figures, nor masks, nor types, but with 
individuals. There is repetition, small wonder and 
small jharm ; even in Shakespear, Toby Belch and 
Falstaff are to all intents the same character. 

Any comparison of Shakespear and Lope must be 
based to some extent on their distinctly individual 
treatment of the same theme — that is, Bandello's tale 
of Romeo and Juliette. The comparison is a fair one, 
for if " Romeo and Juliette " is not one of Shakespear's 
very greatest plays, it is one-fiftieth part of his work, 
while Lope's " Castelvines y Monteses " is less than one- 
fifteen-hundredth part of his. 

An English translation of Lope's play by F. W. 
Cosens appeared in 1869 (Chiswick Press, London), 
for private distribution ; this translation should be re- 


printed, though Cosens is, I think, wrong in attempting 
a Shakespearian diction in his rendering of Lope's 
Spanish. Lope's dramatic convention differs from 
Shakespear's in this : Shakespear's convention is that of 
ennobled diction. His speech is characteristic of his 
people, but is more impressive than ordinary speech. 
Works of art attract us by a resembling unlikeness. 
Lope's convention is that of rhymes and assonance — 
that is, his lines differ from ordinary speech in that 
they are more suave : when Lope becomes ornate, irony 
is not far distant. The nature of the Spanish language 
permits rhyme and assonance, without such strain or 
cramping as these devices would generate in English. 
His effort is to make speeches which can be more easily 
pronounced " trippingly on the tongue." Shakespear 
also aims at this, but it is a secondary aim, and it is 
concealed by his verse structure, although such 
words as: 

" Nymph, in thy orisons 
Be all my sins 

have about them something of the Spanish smoothness. 
But Lope would have written, I think, « 

" Nymph, 
In thine orisons 
Be all our sins 

Lope is all for speed in dialogue ; his lines are shorter: 
thus a translation which has his own blemishes, i.e. 
those of carelessness, is a truer representation of him 
than one that retards his action by a richer phrasing. 
Not that he lacks eloquence or noble diction on 
occasion, but his constant aim is swiftness. 

This criticism must only be applied to certain plays. 


No formula of criticism even approximately applies to 
all of Lope's work. What he does to-day, he does not 

Dante and Shakespear are like giants. Lope is hke 
ten brilliant minds inhabiting one body. An attempt 
to enclose him in any formula is like trying to make 
one pair of boots to fit a centipede. 

Lope's " Castelvines y Monteses," then, lacks Shake- 
spear's richness of diction. He tends towards actual 
reproduction of life, while Shakespear tends towards a 
powerful symbolic art. In this play each of the masters 
has created his own vivid detail. In the Spanish play 
there is a delightful and continued " double entente " in 
the garden scene, where Julia sits talking to Octavio, in 
phrases which convey their real meaning only to Roselo. 
Shakespear portrays this maidenly subtlety in Act III. 
scene 5, in the dialogue between Juliet and her mother^ 

Although Lope's play ends in comedy, it has a tragic 
emphasis, no lighter than Shakespear's : thus Julia 
drinks the sleeping draught, and, as it is beginning to 
take effect, doubts whether it be not some fatal poison ; 
so all the fear of death is here depicted. Lope is past- 
master at creating that sort of •' atmospheric pressure," 
which we are apt to associate only with Ibsen and 
Maeterlinck. He envelops his audience with his sense 
of " doom impending " and his " approach of terror," or 
in any temper of emotion which most fits his words and 
makes most sure his illusion. 

After Julia has been buried, Roselo comes into the 
tomb, and the fear of his criado (servant), the trusty 
■Marin, in the place of death brings the comic relief. 

(In "Los Bandos de Verona," a later play on this 
subject by Rojas, the gracioso is omitted, and the nurse 
fills this office in the dramatic machinery, somewhat as 
the nurse in Shakespear.) 


Julia awakes ; Marin touches her by accident. 

Julia. Man, are you living or dead ? 
Marin. " Muerto soy ! " — " Dead am I ! " 

The lovers escape to the country, and live disguised 
as peasants. Antonio (Julia's father) goes a journey, 
discovers Roselo, and is about to have him killed, when 
the voice of his supposedly dead daughter arrests him. 
The escaped Julia, impersonating her own ghost, 
terrifies him into forgiveness, and the play ends in 
restoration and gaiety. There is absolutely nq necessity 
for the general slaughter at the end of Shakespear's 
play. If one demand tragedy, Lope creates as intense 
an air of tragedy in the poison scene above mentioned. 
A decision as to the relative merits of these two plays 
is dependent solely on individual taste ; the greatness 
of Shakespear is, however, manifest if we shift our 
ground of comparison to " Acertar Errando." This 
play and "The Tempest" are traceable to a common 
source, presumably of rich beauty. When Furness 
wrote his introduction to "The Tempest," no source 
used by Shakespear in this play had been discovered. 
" Acertar Errando " is a far more ordinary affair than 
the English play, but then Lope probably wrote his 
version in three days or less. In the Spanish play we 
find a rightful heiress, Aurora Infanta of Calabria, on 
an island, and early in the course of the play this 
speech : 

Aurora. Fabio, Oton, in the offing there shows a little ship 
Perplexed and buffeted. 
Proudly the sea with sledgy blows 
Disturbs and drives it on. 
They wait your aid. 
Thus before mine eyes 
Die those that clamour there within. 


A prey of the brackish whirl (centra, trough of the sea). . . . 

The winds play at pelota (malce them their tennis), 

Ah, boldness little availing ! 

Now touch they the stars, and now the sandy floor." 

As in the Romeo tale, both authors from their 
fecundity supply their own detail, never hitting upon 
the same, but often upon equally enchanting methods 
of presentation. 

Here, I think, we must presuppose much of the 
beauty to be that of the common source. 

The beneficent Prospero is probably Shakespear's 
own creation, although in Lope's play we find mention 
of " the power of the stars," and of a " master of the 
island." I suspect an Italian, and ultimately Oriental, 
source for both the plays, but this is merest conjecture. 

Both Ariel and the phantom music of Shakespear's 
play were perhaps suggested by Apuleius, but Lope's 
prince, in describing the tempest, personifies the winds, 
which had confused his mariners : with common names, 
to be sure, "Eolo" and " Austro," but it is personifica- 
tion nevertheless. In Lope's " Tarquin " we find a com- 
bination of our old friends Stephano and Trinculo : among 
other things, he, at landing, speaks thus familiarly : 

" Let me then bless the wine." 

Caliban is Shakespear's ; but Lope also mentions an 
unprepossessing creature, with one eye larger than the 

Lope's further " enredo " or entanglement differs 
from that of the English play. He sets fewer char- 
acters upon the boards, but there is parallel for 
Ferdinand's imprisonment, and for Sebastian's plot 
against Alonso (or Caliban's against Prosper — if one 
choose to regard it so). 

In the end the Prince and Island Princess " ascertain 


by erring," after the rightful manner in such adventure. 
A separate volume will be required for an adequate 
discussion of this play and the problems it involves. 

One might continue giving synopses of Lope's plays 
ad infinitum, or almost. No formula of criticism is, as 
I have said, of any great use in trying to define him. 
He is not a man, he is a literature. A man of normal 
energy could spend a fairly active life in becoming 
moderately familiar with the 25 per cent, of Lope's 
work which has survived him. 

His " Adonis y "Venus " does not seem particularly 
happy ; it is perhaps typical of his dramatic treatment of 
classic themes. But if these imitations are without 
notable value, how gladly do we turn to those shorter 
poems, which are really Spanish. Thus : 

" A mis sokdades voy 
De mis sokdades vengo 
Porque para andar cmmigo 
Mi bastan mis pensamientos" 

The true poet is most easily distinguished from the 
false, when he trusts himself to the simplest expression, 
and when he writes without adjectives. 

" To my solitudes I go. 
From my solitudes return I, 
Sith for companions on the journey, 
Mine own thoughts (do well) suffice me." 

These lines are at the beginning of some careless 
redondillons, representing the thoughts he takes with 
him journeying ; among which this quatrain : 

" Envy they paint with evil chere. 
But I confess that I possess it, 
For certain men who do not know 
The man that lives next door to them." 

He is ever at these swift transitions. I think his 
thoughts outran even his pen's celerity, so that often 


he writes only their beginnings. It is this that gives 
him that matchless buoyancy, that inimitable freshness. 
For, notwithstanding the truth of Fitzmaurice Kelly's 
statement that in his non-dramatic work " Lope followed 
everyone who made a hit," there is about his plays 
nothing fin de Steele^ but always an atmosphere of 
earliest morning. He is like that hour before the 
summer dawn, when the bracing cool of the night still 
grips the air. There is no kind of excellence (except 
that of sustained fineness) of which we dare say, " it was 
beyond him," since our refutation may be concealed 
anywhere in those surviving plays of his, which no living 
man has read. 

In one corner of his mind dwelt all the delicacy and wit 
of Hood ; in another, the vigour of Marlowe. If haste 
or love of words has left some of his nature painting 
rhetorical, his 

" A penas Leonora 
La blanca aurora 
Puso su fie de marfil 
Sobre lasflores de Abril" 

(" Scarcely doth the white dawn press 

Her ivory foot upon the April flowers "), 

is as descriptive of the pale dawn of Spain as is Shake- 
spear's " in russet mantle clad," of the more northern 
days approaching. 

As illustration of his suave, semi-ironical gallantry 
I quote this from a passage between '■'■ galan" and 
'■'■ gracioso." 

" Master. Why do they give me this name (i.e. fool) ? 
Man. Didn't you come all the way from Milan 

Just to look at a woman ? 
Master. Isn't a woman more than a city, 

Being a world of trouble 

And a heaven of pleasure ? " 


" Galan. Porque eso nombre mi dan ? 
Gracioso. No vienes desde Milan 

Solo a ver un mujer P 
Galan. No es una mujer mas que una ciudad 

Siendo un mundo de fesar 

Siendo un cielo de pla%er ? " 

Between his vigour and his suavity, his wit and his 
tenderness, the intoxication grows within one. One 
may know him rather well and yet come upon him 
suddenly in some new phase ; thus, if one knows only 
his jrony, one comes upon that most exquisite slumber 
song in the little book of devotions, "Los Pastores de 
Belen" (Bethlehem Shepherds). One stanza is as 
follows, the Virgin singing it : 

" Cold be the fierce winds 
Treacherous round him ; 
Ye see that I have not 
Wherewith to guard him. 
O Angels, divine ones 
That pass us a-flying ; 
Sith sleepeth my child here 
Still ye the branches." 

If we at this late day are bewildered at his versatility, 
it is small wonder that the times which saw the man 
himself should have gone mad over him. 

It is not in the least surprising that in 1647 there 
sjiould have appeared a creed beginning " I believe in 
Lope de Vega the Almighty, the poet of heaven and 
earth " ; the marvel is that the Inquisition should have 
been able to suppress it. 

A Spaniard told me not long since that Lope 
prophesied the wireless telegraph. I have forgotten 
the exact passage which he used as substantiation, but 
I am quite ready to believe it. 

At the end of this century Lope's works may be 
reasonably accessible. The best English sources of 


information concerning Lope are: H. A. Rennert's 
"Life of Lope de Vega"; Fitzmaurice Kelly's essay 
on Lope, in his " Chapters on Spanish Literature " ; and 
the pages on Lope in his "History of Spanish Litera- 
ture," Synopses of a number of plays are given in 
A. F. Von Schack's " Geschichte des dramatischen 
Literatur und Kunst in Spanien." There is a Spanish 
translation of this work by E. de Mier. 

Anyone who can read Spanish would do well to apply 
himself to the plays themselves. 

No prince of letters ever ruled such subjects as had 
Frey Lope Felix de Vega y Carpio. 

Either Cervantes or Calderon would have made a 
great age of letters. For the wealth that the New 
World gave to Spain, Spain paid the Old in song. The 
names of Quevedo, Herrera, and a score of other 
notable poets are scarcely known outside the Spanish- 
speaking countries and the cliques of Spanish scholars. 
The histories give us catalogues of their works, but 
convey no idea of their flavour. Such collections as are 
available are for the most part the choice of eighteenth 
century critics, and do not represent the spirit of the 
spacious days. 

Few of the world's poets have so known the beauti- 
ful way of words as did Fernando Herrara, although 
my translation of this sonnet to Christobal Mosquera 
de Figueira is insufficient proof of it : 

" Since my breast burnetii up in her sweet fire, 
I dare, Mosquera, sing the ill I feel. 
For my frail song his haughty air doth steel 
From that same sun which is my blindness' sire. 

From such as mock Love's pain and his desire 
No sheltered speech doth my hot tears conceal, 
In humble guise my sad compleynts first kneel 
Till hope and boldness from their might respire. 


Absent she is, and lost my light and still 
Increaseth with her beauty my grief's madness. 
Behold what meed my stubbornness doth gain : 
I weep past good and mourn the present ill, 
And in the wilderness of this my sadness 
Hope faileth me, and daring dies in vain." 

Quevedo's fancy could bring forth such conceits as 
this, in a speech to his lady looking into a fountain : 

" Las aguas que han pasado 
Oiras por este prado 
Lhrar no haherte vhto con tristeza." 

" You may hear the waters that have passed, 
A-weeping through the meadows. 
That they have not seen you." 

And if one love Wordsworth's " the world is too much 
with us," one must care also for Quevedo's ode beginning, 

" Alexis, what contrary 
Influence of heaven 
Persecutes our souls 
With the things of the world." 

Is there no one who reads the poetry of this period 
for love's sake, and not for scholarship, who will make 
us an anthology ; no one whose mind is undefiled by 
the pseudo-classicism of eighteenth century opinion who 
will separate the Spanish poetry of this time from 
the Spanish translations and imitations of every foreign 
writer from Anacreon to Tasso, and deliver their collec- 
tion to those of us who love true poetry, and have not 
leisure for the original research.'' 

Perhaps the atmosphere in which this Spanish drama was pre- 
sented may be suggested by this quotation from a book of travels, 
published thirty years after Lope's death. 

The book is, I believe, quite common, but the one copy which I 
saw in Madrid had no author's name on the title-page, in conse- 
quence of which 1 have not been able to find it in any library. 

" Voyage d'Espagne, curieux, historique et politique ; fait en 
I'annde 1665. Paris : Chez Charles de Lerey." 


On the 27th of May we were present at "the fiesta" of Corpus, 
the most " ostentiosa " and largest of all that we observed in Spain. 
It commenced with a procession, preceded by a great number of 
musicians and " vmcainos " with tambourines and castanets. There 
accompanied them, moreover, many other persons with garments 
more befitting, leaping and dancing as it had been Carnival, in time 
to the instruments. 

The king went to the church Sa. Maria, nearest the palace, and 
after hearing mass, returned with a candle in his hand. 

Before was borne the tabernacle, followed by " grandees " of Spain, 
and the divers " consejos " (orders) mingled in disorder on this day 
to escape disputes of pre-eminence. With the first of the accompany- 
ing company were to be observed moreover giant machines, that is, 
figures of paste-board, which moved by the eiforts of men hidden in 

They were of divers forms and some horrible, all representing 
women, save the first, which is a monstrous head, painted, and 
placed upon the shoulders of a " devoto " of small stature, in such a 
manner that the combination resembles a dwarf with the head of a 
giant. There are beside other horrors, of like sort, representing two 
giants, the one, " moro " (moor, brown), and the other black. The 
people call these figures " Los hijos del Vecino." 

They told me also of another like figure which passes through 
the streets, and is called " La Tarasca." This name, as it is said, 
cometh from a bosque that existed of old in " La Provenza," in the 
place where lieth Tarascon or Beaucaire, over against Roldano. It 
is asserted that in a certain time it was dwelt in by a serpent, as 
hostile to the human race as was that one which was the cause of 
our first parents being sent from Paradise. Santa Marta at last did 
him to death by virtue of her orisons, " orociones " (preaching ?), and 
hung him by her girdle. 

Be there what may in this tradition, this which is called " La 
Tarasca," to which I refer, is a serpent of monstrous magnitude, with 
enormous belly, long neck, smallish feet, pigeon-toed, eyes threaten- 
ing, and jaws horrible, prominent and thrust forward ; its body 
is sewed with scales. 

They bear this figure through the streets, and those who are hidden 
beneath the cardboard that forms it, direct it to make such move- 
ments that they knock off the hats from the heads of the unheeding. 

The simple folk hold it in great fear, and when it catches 
one, it causes thunderous laughter among the spectators. The most 
curious thing of all was the obeisance that these " monigotes " make 


to the Queen, when the procession passes the balcony which she 
occupies. Moreover, the King did his obeisance unto the Queen ; 
she and the Infanta descend from their seats ; the procession then 
took its way to the Plaza (Mayor ?), and returned to Santa Maria by 
the Calle Mayor. From this time to the fifth hour of the afternoon 
are represented " autos." They are religious dramas, among which 
are interspersed burlesque " eniremeses " to mitigate and give spice to 
the seriousness of the show. 

The companies, of players, of which there are two in Madrid, 
close the theatres at this time for the space of more than a month, 
and put only religious pieces on the boards. 

They are obliged to play daily before the house of one of the 
" presidentes del consejo." The first function is celebrated before the 
royal palace, where there is raised for this purpose a booth with a 
" dias," beneath which sit their majesties. The theatre extends to 
the foot of the throne. In place of the green-room they have 
closets on wheels. In place of scenery they use properties on 
wheels, from behind which come forth the actors, and whither they 
retire at the end of each scene. Before beginning the " autos" the 
dancers of the procession and the " mmigotes " of paste-board referred 
to, show their tricks in the presence of the people. That which 
disturbed me most, most surprised me in the representation of an 
" auto" at which I was present in " El prado Viejo " (old meadow), 
was that presenting the play in the middle of the street, and by the 
light of day they burned luces, while in other closed theatres they 
make use of the natural light, without using the artificial. 



In 1453 Constantinople was captured by Mohamed II., 
" conqueror of two empires, twelve kingdoms, and three 
hundred cities." This event and the invention of print- 
ing did not cause the Renaissance, but precipitated it. 
During the dark ages there had been a series of attempts; 
of abortive Renaissances ; Charlemagne, Alfred, Alcuin, 
Rosclin, Abelard, the so-called awakening in the tenth 
century and in the twelfth, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, all 
precede that period which is termed the Renaissance. 
But without the printing press, or without such trained 
slaves to multiply manuscripts, as there had been for the 
publishers of Imperial Rome, there could be no victory 
over the general ignorance ; no propagandist movement 
could be more than local or temporary. 

The fall of the city of Constantine scattered classical 
scholars and manuscripts over Europe ; and coupled with 
other Moslem conquests, closed the old caravan routes, 
making it necessary, if trade with the East one must, 
to trade by some other way ; whence the doubling of 
the Cape of Good Hope, and the discovery of America ; 
whence the sense of expansion which is mirrored in 
literature, usually in a style showing to greater or less 
degree the influence of the Greek or Roman classics. 
Thought was supposedly set free, but style was taken 
captive, for an age at least. 

Shakespear is the consummation : in most of his 
work all traces of the means have disappeared. Lope 
is, in part, of the Middle Ages ; in part, of the mid- 
stream of the Renaissance ; and, in part, a result of it. 


Both Lope and Shakespear add their incalculable 
selves to any expression of the Time Spirit ; they owe 
much to it, but are not wholly dependent thereupon. 
Till now we have treated only of the generative 
forces in literature: Camoens is not a force, but a 
symptom. His work is utterly dependent upon the 
events and temper of his time ; and in it, therefore, 
we may study that temper to maximum advantage. 
A corresponding study in architecture were a study 
of "barocco." 

" Os Lusiadas " is, according to Hallam, " the first 
successful attempt in modern Europe to construct an 
epic poem on the ancient model." The subject fits the 
time; it is the voyage of Vasco de Gama, with the 
history of Portugal interpolated. This voyage was 
made 1 497-1499 a.d. Camoens was born in 1524, and 
"The Portuguese" (Os Lusiadas) published in Lisbon 
in 1572. 

We are summoned to attend this song in a style 
grandiloquent, flowing, "Hum estylo grandiloquo e 
corriente," because it tells of real men, whose deeds 
surpass all the fictitious deeds of fabled heroes. 

The quality of Camoens' mind is rhetorical, but his 
diction and his technique are admirable. The beauty 
of Camoens will never be represented in English until 
his translators learn to resist translating every Portu- 
guese word by an English word derivative from the 
same Latin root. The translation of Camoens into 
words of Saxon origin would demand a care of diction 
equal to that of the author, and would retain the vigour 
of the original. A translation filled with Latinisras looks 
like a cheap imitation of Milton ; and if one wants a 
Miltonic version of the grand style of Portugal, one 
had much better go to Milton himself, to passages like 
the following : 


" As when to them who sail 
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past 
Mozambic, oft at sea north-east windes blow 
Sabean odours from the spicie shore 
Of Arabia the blest, with such delay 
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league 
Cheared with the grateful smell, old ocean smiles." 

Camoens writes resplendent bombast, and at times it 
is poetry. The unmusical speech of Portugal is sub- 
jugated, its many discords beaten into harmony. As 
florid rhetoric, the Lusiads are, I suppose, hardly to be 
surpassed. The charm is due to the vigour of their 
author, his unanimity, his firm belief in the glory of 
externals ; and there is also a certain pleasure in coming 
into contact with Camoens' type of mind, the mind of 
a man who has enthusiasm enough to write an epic 
in ten books without once pausing for any sort of 
philosophical reflection. He is the Rubens of verse. 

An epic cannot be written against the grain of its 
time: the prophet or the satirist may hold himself 
aloof from his time, or run counter to it, but the writer 
of epos must voice the general heart. Although 
Camoens is indubitably a poet, one reads him to-day 
with a prose interest. "Os Lusiadas " is better than 
an historical novel ; it gives us the tone of the time's 
thought. Thus far it is epic. By its very seeming 
faults it shows us what things interested the people of 
that time. 

Geography, as fresh then as is aviation to-day, could 
be dwelt upon at length; the costumes of people in 
strange places were worthy description. 

This much is real; the furniture of deities is a 
nuisance, but the real weakness of the Lusiads is that 
it is the epic of a cross section, and voices a phase, a 
fashion of a people, and not their humanity. 


Apart from the prose interest, our interest is in his 
use of language. What Camoens wanted is very clearly 
stated in Book I. stanza 5 : 

" Give me a madness great and sounding. 
Not of the country pipe or shepherd's reed." 

" Mas de tuba canora e bellkosa." 

" But of a trumpet resonant and warlike." 

The muses answered his prayers with precision. He 
got his trumpet, and his wind was excellent. As his 
beauty depends solely on his diction and sound, great 
care must be taken in translation, or nothing remains 
but rhetoric. His technique may be proven by a few 
illustrations, and the dangers of careless translation 
likewise. Thus, of committing the ships to the sea 
(i. 27) : 

O duvidoso mar »' hum lenho leve." 

" Unto the doubtful sea their wood unweighty." 

Half the charm of the line is in the assonance. 

His simplicity and directness are greater than anyone 
would suppose from any translation that I have seen. 
Aubertin, attempting to retain the original rhyme 
scheme, renders i. 58, 1-2: 

" Now did the moon in purest lustre rise 
On Neptune's silvery waves her beams to pour."* 

" Da lua OS clans raios ruttlavam 
Pelas argenteas ondas neptuninas." 


" The clear rays of the moon glitter 
Through the argent waves of the sea." 

(We have no English adjective " neptunian.") 


The lines following are as free from ornateness : 

" The stars accompany the heavens 
As a field reclothed with daisies. 
The furious winds rest in the dark, strange caves. 

(perigrinas : i.e. caves where even they come as strangers.) 
But the folk of the fleet keep vigil, 
As for long time had been their wont." 

In i. 59 we find the words "aurora marchetada." 
The dictionaries give "marchetar," to inlay, enamel, 
adorn ; but " marcheta " is a mantle, or that part of a 
mantle, or mantilla, where the ribbons are fastened. 
Thus it is obvious, both for sense and for beautiful 
association, that we must not translate aurora mar- 
chetada as enamelled, or even adorned Aurora, but : 

" The mantled (or even beribboned) dawn 
Spreads out her glorious hair 
Upon the sky serene, opening the ruddy door 
To clear Hyperion, awakened. 
All the fleet began to " embanner " itself. 
And to adorn itself, with joyful awnings. 
To receive with festivities and joy 
The ruler of the isles who was departing." 

Modern interest in the poem centres in those stanzas 
of the third canto which treat of Ignez da Castro. 
The tale of Ignez da Castro will perhaps never be 
written greatly, for art becomes necessary only when 
life is inarticulate ; and when art is not an expression, 
but a mirroring, of life, it is necessary only when life is 
apparently without design ; that is, when the conclusion 
or results of given causes are so far removed or so hidden, 
that art alone can make their relation manifest. Art 
that mirrors art is unsatisfactory, and the great poem, 
" Ignez da Castro," was written in deeds by King Pedro. 
No poem can have such force as has the simplest narra- 
tion of the events themselves. 


In brief: Constan9a, wife of Pedro, heir to the throne 
of Portugal, died in 1 345. He then married in secret 
one of her maids of honour, Ignez da Castro, a Castilian 
of the highest rank. Her position was the cause of 
jealousy, and of conspiracy; she was stabbed in the 
act of begging clemency from the then reigning 
Alfonso IV. When Pedro succeeded to the throne, 
he had her body exhumed, and the Court did homage, 
the grandees of Portugal passing before the double 
throne of the dead queen and her lord, and kissing that 
hand which had been hers. A picture of the scene 
hangs in the new gallery at Madrid, with that great 
series of canvasses which commemorate the splendid 
horrors of the Spanish past. 

Camoens, for once unadorned, begins his allusion 
with four immortal lines : 

" O caso triste, e digno de memoria 
Que do sepuichro os homes desenterra 
Aconteceo da miseria, e mesquinha 
Que, despois de ser morta poi Rainha." 

" A sad event and worthy of Memory, 
Who draws forth men from their (closed) sepulchres, 
Befell that piteous maid, and pitifiil 
Who, after she was dead was (crowned) queen." 

I have had to add the bracketed words to keep the 
metre. The powerful antithetic suggestion of the 
second line can escape no one. 

The further narrative, with the comparison to the 
wilted daisy, is beautiful and full of music ; but it is the 
beauty of words and cadences, and of expression, not 
the beauty of that subtler understanding which is 
genius, and the dayspring of the arts. How wise is 
De Quincey, when he speaks of the " miracle which 
can be wrought simply by one man's feeling a thing 
more keenly, understanding it more deeply, than it has 


ever been felt before." In this pass fails Camoens, for 
all his splendour, and with him fail the authors of the 
Renaissance. It is true that he felt the glory of 
Portugal as no other poet has felt it. But this glory- 
was short-lived. 

Every age, every lustrum, yields its crop of pleasant 
singers, who know the rules, and who write beautiful 
language and regular rhythms ; poetry completely free 
from the cruder faults : but the art of writing poetry 
which is vitally interesting, this is a matter for masters. 
The above has for so long been platitude that no one 
recognizes more than the surface of it. 

Those who enjoy the submarine parts of Keats' 
^'Endymion " will probably enjoy, for contrast and com- 
parison, that part of the sixth canto of " Os Lusiadas " 
which treats of Bacchus' visit to Neptune. 

" No mas intemo fundo das profundos 

Cavemas altas, mde o mar se esconde 
La donde as ondas sahem furibundas 

Quando as iras do vento o mar responded 

There is a fine thunderous resonance about it. 

" In th' inmost deep of the profound 
High caverns, where the sea doth hide him. 
There, whence the waves come forth in madness. 
When to the wraths of wind the sea respondeth." 

Here dwells the lord of the trident ; behind golden 
gates inlaid with seed pearl ; and here is the gentle reader 
introduced to all the deities, and demi-deities, whose 
acquaintance he has not already made in the lofty courts 
of Jove. 

Nowhere, I think, does Camoens reach the Miltonic 
maximum of twenty-four allusions to the classics and 
Hebrew Scriptures, in a passage of twenty lines. 

In brief, then, "The Lusiads " is remarkable as the 
sustained retention of an assumed grand manner. 


Camoens was a master of sound and language, a man 
of vigour and a splendid rhetorician ; that part of the 
art of poetry which can be taught, he learned. Long- 
fellow had the same type of mind. Marooned on a 
stem and rock-bound coast, planted in an uninteresting 
milieu, and in a dreary age, Camoens would have shown a 
corresponding mediocrity. If in the future anyone should 
ever become interested in the mid-eighteenth century 
atmosphere of Massachusetts, he would find the works 
of Longfellow most valuable as archasological documents. 
Thus, to the student of the Renaissance, Camoens. 

Robert Garnett's translation of some of his sonnets 
is a labour of love, and may convey a more favourable 

If one were seeking to prove that all that part of 
art which is not the inevitable expression of genius 
is a by-product of trade or a secretion of commercial 
prosperity, the following facts would seem significant. 
Shortly before the decline of Portuguese prestige, 
Houtman, lying in jail for debt at Lisbon, planned 
the Dutch East India Company. When Portugal 
fell, Holland seized the Oriental trade, and soon after 
Roemer Visscher was holding a salon, wherewith the 
following names are connected : — Rembrandt, Grotius, 
Spinoza, Vondel (born 1587) "the one articulate 
voice of Holland," Coornhert, Spieghel, Coster, Hooft, 
Raeel, Vossius, Erasmus, and Thoinas-a-Kempis. 

Our interest centres in the work of Vondel, whose 
plays and whose non-dramatic work reflect not only 
these forces of the Renaissance which we have already 
noted, but also the forces of the religious struggle then 
in progress. The one play which I know to be available 
for those who do not read Dutch is the "Lucifer," 
translated by Leonard van Noffen. Van Noflen's intro- 
ductory essay on " Vondel's Life and Times " repays 


the reading. I can illustrate what I find lacking in 
Camoens — which is, I suppose, nothing more or less 
than the magical quality of poetry — by one line from a 
poem of Lope's, a poem written, presumably in emula- 
tion of Camoens' "hit," "The Lusiads." I mean "La 
Circe," where Lope speaks of 

" The white forest of the Grecian ships." 
" De Griegas naves una blanca seha." 

I am not sure but Camoens may be tried in an easier 
fire and found wanting. Let us test him with two lines 
of that modern Italian ^ whose beautiful cold intellect 
we, outside of Italy, are so slow in praising. 

" Come in chiare acque albor Ionian di stella 
Ridea (alma ne gli occhi e trasfaria." 

"Juvenalia," i. xi. 
" Her soul smiles in her eyes and showeth through them 
As in clear waters the far whiteness of a star." 

iThe practical failure of Carducci to get a hearing 
outside the most cultured and fastidious circles of Italy 
is the most striking proof, that I know, of the truth 
that poetry is something more than exquisite thought. 

If poetry be a part of literature — which I am some- 
times inclined to doubt, for true poetry is in much 
closer relation to the best of music, of painting, and of 
sculpture, than to any part of literature which is not 
true poetry ; if, however, Arnold considered poetry as 
a part of literature, then his definition of literature as 
"criticism of life" is the one notable blasphemy that 
was born of his mind's frigidity. 

The spirit of the arts is dynamic. The arts are not 
passive, nor static, nor, in a sense, are they reflective, 
though reflection may assist at their birth. 

Poetry is about as much a " criticism of life " as red- 
hot iron is a criticism of fire. 



The cult of Provence was, as we have said, a cult of 
the emotions ; that of Tuscany a cult of the harmonies 
of the mind. The cult of the Renaissance was a cult 
of culture. 

It is probably true that the Renaissance brought in 
rhetoric, and all the attendant horrors. Between the 
age of Dante and the age of Shakespear none sang as 
sang the contemporaries of these men. The difference 
between the songs of their periods is due to the fact 
that there had been a Renaissance. The " expansion "^ 
strikes the spirit of song primarily : the influence of the 
classics bears primarily upon the style. If we are to 
learn the exact nature of this influence, we must examine 
those works where it appears least affected by other 
influences — that is, the works of the men who were 
the most persistent in their effort to bring the dead to 
life, and who most conscientiously studied and followed 
their models. Those men who wrote in the mother- 
Latin have the best of it, since in them alone does the 
inner spirit conform to the outward manner. They 
alone do no violence to their medium ; their diction i& 
not against the grain of the language which they use. 
In these men dwelt the enthusiasm which set the 
fashion ; their myths and allusions are not a furniture 
or a conventional decoration, but an interpretation of 
nature. The classical revival was beneficent in this : 
it broke down the restricting formulae of mediasval art, 
and brought back to poetry a certain kind of nature- 
feeling which had been long absent. 



The best Latin was written in Italy, and if the men 
who wrote it were not immortals, they were at least 
sincere, and they sang of the things they cared about. 

I can place over the collections of Toscanus and 
Gherus, and over the period of Latin singing represented 
therein, no more fitting inscription than Andrea Navgeri's 
rune for a fountain : 

" Inscriptio Fontis 
" Lo ! the fountain is cool and 

none more hale of waters. 
Green is the land about it, 

soft with the grasses. 
And twigged boughs of elm 

stave off {fined) the sun. 

There is no place more charmed 

with light-blown airs. 
Though Titan in utmost flame 

doth hold the middle sky. 
And the parched fields burn with 

the oppressing star. 

Stay here thy way, O voyager, 

for terrible is now the heat ; 

Thy tired feet can go no further now. 

Balm here for weariness is 
sweet reclining, 

Balm 'gainst the heat, the winds, 
and greeny shade ! 

And for thy thirst the lucid fount's assuaging." 

Ercole Cuccoli, in his "Studio," on Mark Anthony 
Flaminius (Bologna, 1897), quotes Carducci to the 
eifect that, "a denial of the sesthetic fineness of a no 
small part of the poetry, Italian and Latin, of the 
Cinquecento cannot be made except with great injustice, 
or by one who has an inadequate knowledge of art." 

Cuccoli follows this by saying, " everyone recognizes 
the period, but what is lacking is a careful study of the 
works themselves." 


Presuming on the part of the reader a certain famili- 
arity with the times of Raphael and Buonarroti, I pro- 
ceed with notice of the man whose words I have above 
translated, Andrea Navageri: "from Sabellico in the 
Venitian province, a man profiting by Latin letters 
and by Greek, a pupil of Marcus Musorus, in Latin 
diction and in observation surpassing his preceptor." 

"To the Winds" he makes this "Prayer for Idmon": 

" Ye winds that cross the air 

on light-plumed wing 
And murmur gentle-voicM 

through deep groves ; 
Lo ! these garlands doth 

one give to you, 
Idmon, the rustic, scattereth 

to you 
This basket filled with 

fragrant crocuses. 
Make temperate the summer's heat, 

bear off the useless chaff. 
While 'neath the mid-day 

he doth fan the grain." 

One is, of course, reminded of Joachim du Bellay's song 
of the "Winnowers of Wheat to the Winds," and, in- 
deed, the work of these Italians writing in Latin is not 
unlike that of the French Pleiade. Navgeri, again, voices 
the feeling of the risorgimento in the inscription for 
" Tie Image of Pythagoras 
" He who, Fame saith, hath lived so oft a soul re-born. 
Into a changed body oft returning. 
Behold ! once more from heaven 
He comes and through Asyla's skill hath life, 
And serves the ancient beauty with his lineament. 
Some worthy thing he broodeth certainly, 
So stern of brow, so mightily withdrawn within himself. 
He could the high perceptions of the soul show forth, were't not 
That held from the older cult, he doth not speak." 
" Sed veteri obstrklus religione, sikt." 


In the last line, silet suggests the silentes anni of the 
Pythagorean disciples. 

The lament of Baldassare Castiglione (that "courteous 
prince of Mantua, civitium ocelle, known to all as the 
author of "II Cortegiano") for the painter whom he 
loved, re-echoes the spirit of the times' desire. 

" De Morte Raphaelis Picioris 

(transcription of part of the poem) 

" Unto our city Rome, sore wounded 
By the sword and flame and flow of years. 
Thou did' St bring back that rare, lost beauty 
That was hers of old. Thou did'st scorn 
The laws that bind us lesser mortals 
And dared'st lead back a soul unto its earthly dwelling. 
And the spirit unto this our poor dead city ; 
Wherefore were the very high gods angry 
With thee, O Raphael, and took thee from us 
While thy years were yet as flowers." 

The reference to restoring Rome's lost beauty does 
not, in all probability, refer to Raphael's painting, but 
to a certain matter of which he had written to the 
Count Baldassare in these words : 

" His Holiness, in doing me honour, has laid a heavy 
burden upon my shoulders, which is the care and charge 
of building St Peter's . . . the model I have made 
pleases his Holiness." "I would fain find out the 
fine forms of the antique buildings." ... "I do not 
know whether I am attempting to fly like Icarus." 
" Vitruvius gives me great light but not sufficient." 

Of the men whose fame rests, or might rest chiefly 
on their Latin poems, the best known is Marcus 
Antonius Flaminius, born 1498 in Serravalle. Until 
the age of fourteen he studied with his father, John 
Flaminius, superintendent of schools in Serravalle; "a 
man of Spartan simplicity," author of "The Lives of 


the Roman Emperors," and " Lives of the Dominican 
Saints " ; one " shunning the glamour of the papal 
court," to which, however, he sends young Mark at 
the tender age of sixteen, armed with the family's 
poetical works, and an introduction to Leo X. Authors, 
especially Latin poets, seem, in the Cinquecento, to have 
been born — or made — collectively; thus we have five 
Capilupi, three Amalthei, Castiglione and his wife, and 
other combinations. 

At the papal court young Mark was favourably 
received by the Pope and his cardinals. One says that 
he was "learned and awkward," another that he was 
" amiable and bashful," while the Cardinal of Aragon, 
" charmed with his manners and talent," says that Mark 
fearlessly disputed with the Pontiff himself. 

In the poems of Mark Antony Flaminius we find 
signs of the scholar's sensitiveness to nature, both to 
the natural things themselves and to those spiritual pre- 
sences therein, which age after age finds it most fitting 
to write of in the symbolism of the old Greek myth- 
ology. Gently and sincerely religious, we find Flaminius 
the friend of most of the brilliant men in Italy ; among 
these were Valdez, the Spanish reformer, and Cardinal 
Pole. His religious quality, or the quality of his 
religion, can be seen in his Hymnus III. : 

" Utjlos tenelks, in sinu 
Telluris almae, lucidam 
Formosus explicat comam 
Si ros et imber educat 
Ilium : tenella mens mea 
Sic floret, almi spiritus 
Dum rare dulci pascitur 
Hoc ilia si caret, statim 
Languescit ut flos arida 
Tellure natus, eum nisi 
Et ros et imber educat" 


Hymn III 

" As a fragile and lovely flower unfolds its gleaming 
foliage on the breast-fold of the fostering earth, if the 
dew and rain draw it forth ; thus doth my tender mind 
flourish if it be fed with the sweet dew of the Fostering 

"Lacking this, it straightway beginneth to languish 
even as a flower born upon dry earth, if the dew and 
the rain tend it not." 

This prose translation is modelled upon that in the 
"Scholar's Vade Mecum," by John Norton, an odd, 
egotistical little book printed in 1674. 

A certain E. W. Bernard translated fifty of Flaminius' 
poems during the first quarter of the last century, but 
there is as yet no representative English version of 

For the pagan side of Flaminius' poetry, I give you 
one simile from the "Hercules and Hylas," where 
Hylas, "being a- wandered in the silent hills," comes 
to the "fountain filled with little gleamings." The 
nymphs seize him and bear him quickly away beneath 
the waters. 

" As once in the splendour of the spring-time 
A flying star drooped through the gloom of the night 
Shone forth, then sank in the sea-deep." 

The nature-worship and the abandonment of the 
chivaleric love mode, which mark the definite break 
with medijeval tradition, are easily perceptible in the 
following fragments of Flaminius : — 

" To the Dawn 

" Behold from the Earth's rim cometh Eoe ! 
Aurora resplendent draweth the rose of her chariot, 
In her flushed bosom she beareth the far-gleaming light. 


Be gone ye wan shades unto Orcus ! 

Be gone ye dread faces of the manes 

Who all night long bring to me dreams and foreboding. 

Now bring the bard his lyre, O Slave, 

And scatter flowers while I sing : 

' Salve, Bona Diva, thou that makest luminous 

Dark lands with the might of thy splendour. 

Thine are the fragile violets and crocuses ! 

Thine are the wicker baskets of fragrant Amomon ! 

The wind ariseth and beareth to thee our sweet perfumes 

Goddess fairer than all other goddessess, 

Rose-cheeked, when thou dost spread forth 

Thy golden hair along the sky 

Then flee the tawny stars 

And the moon's pale beauty waneth. 

Lacking thee were all things lacking colour, 

And mortals were buried in gloom. 

Nor would our life bear flower in the skilful arts. 

Thou drivest sleep from our sluggard eyes. 

Sleep that is image of Lethe." 

In another poem of the night is the following : — 

"It thunders, the grove groaneth for the greatness 
of the wind, the multitude of the rains pour down. 
Night with her sleep-bearing winds is round about us, 
and is blind. The cloak of strange cloud forms maketh 
dark the earth." 

Flaminius loves the feel of the elements ; he knows 
also that the land he dwells in is haunted by the shades^ 
of those Roman singers from whom he has learned his- 
ways of song ; whence this to the haunts of Catullus : 

" O pleasing shore of Sirmio, 
White-shining hill of Catullus ! 
O Muse, teach me to sing the praise 
. Of the blest sylvan ways 
Citrus laden, and of Lesbia the fair. 


Lo ! in the flower-filled vale of Taburnus 

Stands an altar to thee. 

Green and cut from the turf. 

Thrice from the foam-filled bowl we pour 

Thee milk, and thrice of the honey's store. 

Suppliant do our voices call thee. 

Goddess, to an unskilled sacrifice. 

That thy reed pipe sweetly tuned may 

Sing for her, the fairest maid of all the meadland, 

Our Hyellas." 

The complete difference between the love modes of 
Tuscany and Provence and those of the classic revival 
can be seen in the following genre. 

" May the mother of love be tender, granting thee youth forever. 
With thy cheek's bloom unfurrowed. 

When after the day's last meal with thy mother and sweet Lycinna, 
Mayst thou visit my mother, Pholoe beloved. 
And together we will watch by the great fire, 
And that night shall be fairer than the day's fairness. 
While the old wives tell their tales over, 
While little Lycinna roasts her chestnuts. 
We will sing gay songs together." 

The nature feeling is present in Camillus Capilupus' 
song to the night : 

" yid Nociem 

■" Night, that queenest it o'er the ether-born stars. 
Now ruling in the mid-space of heaven, 
Grant pardon if I break thy magical silence with my song ! 

Sweet love of thee hath drawn me through the shades. 
Who can withhold his song from praising thee ? 
Who hath not his being burnt clear of earth. 
To fuse with thee, made utterly thine J 

Hesper, loved of maidens, gleameth in thy hair. 
As a red rose, he gleameth on thy brow. 
One is it, if thou makest way to Phoebus' coming. 
One if thou sweepest thy hasty garment o'er the sea. 


With the same dew dost thou scatter 

The honey-sweetness upon the violets and growing corn, 

And with it thou dost feed 

The stars that sanctify thee with their gold-gleaming fires. 

In thy hours come forth the nymphs 

Who bathe in the cool waters of the ford, 

And join in the light dancing line 

With their hill-kin Oreiades. 

Dryads of wood and daughters of the fountains 

Sing o'er their chants in mazy circles moving. 

Witness thou art of man's love-sorrow. 

Cherishing him in the lure of thy shadowy deeps. 

Thou dost restore his courage when before thy healing doors 

Ill-starred he feareth a strange thing and unknown." 

Shaggy as is the translation, its substance should prove 
that the myths and personifications hare for these men 
a vital significance. 

It is not, however, to Capilupus, but to John Baptist 
Amalthei, that we must turn for our finest singing ; his 
" Corydon " is typical of the time's taste, both in form 
and manner. 

" Corydon 

" Lo ! do the fields me call again, and sweet recesses. 
The oat-pipe witcheth for a field-grown song's composing, 
Close to the water-ways where light wind murmureth 
Beneath the willow shade, where waters of Athesis 
Flow surrounding. 
And even thou, O tribe of heroes, when great Caesar brought thee 

Thou progeny that vied with very gods. 
Wast wont to make familiar shepherd's haunts 
And shadowy hospitalities beneath their trees. 
And where the banks are soft the farmers lay 
Their altar gifts and set full tables for the banqueting. 
Poured out new milk and brought thee fatted lambs ; 
Kept up the solemn feasts, lest starry gods grow envious. 
For then man's prayers brought favour unto man. 


Wherefore draw nigh, nor hold in scorn 

The gentler sports of the Muses, 

For where Neptune's trident draweth back his towered might. 

Doth Corydon the leisured ears incite : 

Ye happy winds that o'er the dewy sown. 

Girdled with Zephyrs' gentleness, where spring perennial 

Fosters th' eternal flowers and the charmed green. 

Yours the Idalian myrtle. Lo ! and the grove stands here 

Crowned with the Muses' frondage, and Corydon 

Sets seven altars here, with green-tipped boughs 

Near to the waters of this moss-green fountain. 

make ye soft the heat, and with whispers alluring 
Temper the down-rayed light of th' ardent sun. 
Thus : ne'er may cloudy skies make dark your courses 
And may the earth and sea both wear for you their smiles. 

For now doth Nisa tend my grove and the wood doth hear 
Her approaching quiver-girded, and the fallow deer swift-flying. 
Nor dread' th she the driving of the great stags clamorous. 

1 envy you, O ye out-breathing winds upon the march. 
She seeketh the hills, and the inhospitable forests traverseth. 
The huntress renowned for her bow and the light-flying arrows. 
And on the harsh flanks of wind-worn cliffs, and though vast 

Of the wood do gird her round. 
Are ye, O winds, her most steadfast companions. 
Her fellows in labour. 

O'er bold she is, alas ! 
To scour the lonely fields, and she surmounteth 
Th' highest peaks of th' unshorn mounts most perilous, 
There where the grim boar stands him to his arms 
And wrath and dire lust do drive him monstrous on. 

So many a snare is here. Nay! that goddess lacked not in 

That erst 'neath Aetna Sicilian gathered her wreaths of new 

And was torn unhappy unto that drear realm, the shadow- 

And there, ill-starred, knew fear of ghosts in Dis the sorrowful, 

And hapless drank in terror from the flaming streams. 


And thou too, O reckless Aquillo, vagrant in wayless lands, 
Snatched'st Orithyia in thy keen embracing. 

bold Aquillo ! turn this wile aside, and O ! here stay thy blast I 
But ye, O gentle spirits, dewy-wingid. 

That rule in heaven, bear off the unjust heat. 

1 envy you, O winds, whom Nisa doth detain with subtile song, 
To whom her rosy breasts she layeth free, ■ 

Or in the bosom of the pasture lands, or further hidden 

Within some empty cave, where she doth dream alone upon our 

Where forests tower up, and there stand silent-throated about her 
All the attentive birds, and the rivers hush their courses 
And she sings, — and heaven laughs all its light. 

Now doth she broider the whortle on woven acanthus 

And joyeth to vary the pattern with snowy lingustris. 

Or layeth she bare to its calyx the slender hibiscus. 

But if her wearying eyes droop down in sleep, 

May ye, O winds, 'gainst heat and weariness, 

Refresh her speedily, and gentle-moving. 

Breathe down your shadowy perfumes round about her. 

I envy you, O winds, O ye that wander 

Through the hospitable glamour of forests and th' unguarded 

And know what hill or vale is Nisa's dwelling. 

She doth for rigorous hunts prepare her 

When Lucifer drencheth the grass in morning dew 

And all the fields resound a bird-throat chorus. 

Yet ere she treads the grove with bow unbended. 

Her ram, his horns bound round with woody garlands and 

She calls to the 'customed feasts of the flowered cythisos. 

O Ram, so fortunate that none is more so — 

Not even he who through the welling seas 

Bore Phryxus on his golden back, and now doth gleam 

Among the fair formed stars — 

Adorned art thou with ivy green and amaracus. 

And nibbling careless clip'st the meadow-land 

Of thine accustomed fields. 

And 'gainst the whistling winds warm-guarded. 

Dost marvel at the beaten forest's murmuring. 


O would that I might slip beneath the wool of thy white back. 

Stretch forth the curling horns from thy wide forehead 

When night brings Nisa home weighed down with sanguine 

And leads thee back to thine accustomed fold ! 
Then might she spread for me red-rusted hyacinths and crocuses 
Fair-blown, while I pressed stealthy kisses on her maiden hands. 
Or butting gleefully might drive her hastening home. 

But you, O children of the highest Jove, 

You oft with many a prayer do I beseech. 

And do ye reverence with the varied gifts of flowers. 

Ye happy winds that round the dev^ sown 

Are girt about with gentle zephyrs, and with Spring 

Perennial do feed th' eternal flowers and tend the charmed sward ! " 

Amalthei has left us a series of such poems, among 
them a " Lycidas," but the most sincere and passionate 
elegy which I have found is Castiglione's "Alcon." 
The author of " II Cortegiano " has left very few Latin 
poems, but they are nearly all of interest. Thus 
these fragments from the 


" Ta'en of the fates in the flower of thy years, 
Alcon, the grove's glory and the lover's solace, 
Whom oft, so oft the fauns and dryads heard a-singing, 
Whom oft, so oft the Sun and Pan have looked upon 
Admiring ! Weep all the shepherds now. 
And more than all, lolas, lolas whom thou lovedst 
Doth bear his face most sad with rained tears, 
Cries down the gods for cruel and the stars for foes. 

As ^mid the encircling dark the nightingale 

Mourns for her stricken young, and as the widower dove 

Mourns for his mate (so I mourn for one) 

Whom late the oak looked down upon 

And found him glad and careless of the morrow. 

Him doth that cruel shepherd death with his shrill reed pipe 

He knows no more the twigs a-green and grass rejoicing ; 
He drinks no more of the clear stream's sweet current ; 


His grove bears witness to the loss of him ; 

All withered, its deep recesses are filled with lamenting. 

Alcon, the muse's joy and Apollo's. 
Alcon, our soul's part and our heart's. 
Alcon, most greatly ours as grief is now, 
Grief that o'erflows our eyes with lasting tears, 
What god or what fell doom hath torn thee from us ? 

Because ? Because doom's cruelty doth snatch the best alway. 
The reaper doth not reap the unripe grain. 
The yokel doth not pluck the unmellowed fruit. 
But wild brute Death doth pluck before the day. 

The fields' joy, love, the charities, yea, all our light is gone ! 
The trees put oiF their pageantries, of honours dishonoured. 

With withered grasses the dry fields lay down their glory." 

And so it continues, " we that have borne the cold 
together, we, friends since boyhood, shall no more lie 
beneath the oak's shade in summer." 

" If I flee from the long suns of the summer. 
Thy pipe shall not fill the surrounding hills with enchantment." 

The Poems of Flaminius and the Idyls of J. B. 
Amalthei are perhaps the most notable work of this 
group of writers. 

It is needless to say that the average work of a 
pedantic movement is uninteresting. One must search 
long for the beautiful poems which are embedded in 
a mass of epistolary poetry and imitations of the classics 
which are not only slavish but impotent. The writing 
of epigrams was popular. The results are sometimes 
graceful, but ninety-nine per cent, at least are unim- 
portant. The following of Hieronimus Angeriani may 
serve as an illustration : 


" Ad Rosam 
(From the Erotofagnion) 
■ Rose of fair form, God grant thee grace ! 
Thou dost endure but little space ; 
Sith old age thou mayst not wear. 
Thy time be, as thy face is, fair." 

A number of long poems were attempted ; among 
them one by Marcus Hieronymus Vida, " On the Play 
of Chess," beginning : 

" Let us make game in effigy of war. 
Feigning of truth in strife. 
Sham battle lines of wood . . . 
Let us between two kings, the black and white. 
For praise and prizes opposite strive with twi-coloured arms." 

Aonius Palearius attempted "The Immortality of the 
Soul " in three books, whereof the first opens : 

" Ye happy souls and fosterlings of heaven omnipotent, 
Ye glory of the stars, who on varicoloured wings 
Swim through the liquid ajther and who past the stars 
And through the major orbs huge courses turn ; 
Since every race of men and beastly species 
Sends up its prayers through you, and since through you 
Unto the luminous coasts the path doth lie ; 
Ye who do bear all things unto the face 

Of the great King, ye who are that same King's chiefest care ; 
To you the wind-spread sea and castled earth 
{Turrita tellus. Towered earth) 
Give praise ; yea, the open fields resound you 
And all th' inaccessible forests ring with your voices, 
Where there be thickets of brushwood near to the deep- 
sounding rivers. 
The flying ones sweet sing to you through vasty void 
(magnum inane). 
Ye first showed mortals the passage to the stars. 

'Tis by your aid I do loose rein 
For places never trod." 


Life is perhaps too short to read either poem in its 
entirety. The last lines quoted imply a naive ignorance 
of Dante's work, which the good Palearius would have 
probably considered hopelessly Gothic. The pedantry 
of the Renaissance must have been insufferable. 

Set apart from all the other poetry of the time are 
those sonnets which Michael Agnolo seems to have 
beaten together with a sculptor's mallet to the glory of 
Vittoria Colonna, who, as he says, "Hewed his soul 
from the rock and freed it as the sculptor the figure 
from its shrouding." 

Buonarroti's poetry is not indicative of any tendency 
of the time, except that toward writing poems to 
Vittoria. None of the Latinists did it so well as he. To 
witness, this translation by J. A. Symonds : 

' A man within a woman, nay a God 
Speaks through her spoken word ; 
I therefore who have heard 
Must suiFer change, and shall be mine no more. 
She lured me from the paths I whilhom trod, 
Borne from my former state by her away, 
I stand aloof, and mine own self deplore. 
Above all vain desire 
The beauty of her face doth lift my clay. 
All lesser loveliness seems charnal mire. 
O Lady, who through fire 
And water leadest souls to joy serene. 
Let me no more unto myself return." 

But Michael Agnolo is against the spirit of the time. 
He preferred Dante to Bembo. In him survive the 
Middle Ages; in a totally different way we find a 
mediseval quahty in the Franciscan temper of Flaminius. 

How paganism took possession of art, and how, 
further, the fashions of praising the gods are adapted 
to the praising of saints, may be seen from this little 
prayer of John Carga's : 


" To the Virgin Mother, whose shrine is at Lauretus 

" O goddess of the great sea, whose star 
Doth rule the winds twixt both the shores of ocean. 
And doth for sailors shine, whene'er 
Their prayers stretch sail, 

Calm thou these watery floods of the Adrian 
From thy fostering house at Lauretus, and by thy breath 
Make safe the ships' course, let not Auster 
O'erwhelm us with tempest. 

For returned unto the ports of our fatherland 
By gifts will we fuUfill all vows to thee 
And every shrine along the shore shall flow 
With franlcincense and song." 

The Cinquecento was a luxurious period, it wrote 
copiously. I believe its real gifts to the art of poetry 
are the two mentioned, the nature feeling and the 
widening of the scope of the subject matter ; these are, 
of course, resurrections, not initial contributions. As 
for the rest, if any modern really enjoys reading, Bembo, 
Poliziano, Sanazzaro, Ariosto, or even Tasso, let him 
stand forth and praise them. 

One name I have neglected and which is possibly 
worth mention is that of Aurelius Augurellus. He 
wrote among other things, " De Poeti," a short poem, 
the title of which we may render freely as " Concern- 
ing the Artistic Temperament " ; it contains some Ovid, 
and a certain amount of unintentional humour. He is 
to be thanked for a fine opening : 

" Caelestis intus excitat vates vigor 
Ultroque semper promonet. ..." 

" An inward celestial power arouseth the bard and 
ever moveth him toward the 'beyond.' " 

And his ^^ aegrum vulgus," "diseased rabble," is one 


degree more contemptuous than the '•'■profanum vulgus" 
of Horace. 

Another series of men who are usually neglected in 
studies of the Renaissance are those whom we might 
call "The Conservitors," they who fought the long fight 
in the dark : Cassiodorus, Benedict, St Columba, Alcuin. 
Both these and early printers, Aldus, Estienne Froben 
of Basel, Plantin, Elzevir of Leyden, The Kobergers, 
Caxton, who is more familiar, find fitting memorial in 
Putnam's "Books and their Makers during the Middle